President Message: Quarter 2 IMPACT Newsletter

Dear Supporter,

1,327….that’s the number of coaches who volunteer countless hours to prepare athletes for competition during weekly practice sessions and then coach and support them while competing. Without coaches, our athletes would not have the opportunity to develop the skills to compete in the sports they love. Without coaches, there would be no program. There is no way to acknowledge all the exceptional volunteers who coach our athletes, but I can introduce you to a number of coaches to illustrate the value that our coaches bring to the lives of our athletes. These are unsung heroes who volunteer because they love their sport and they want our athletes to love their sport too. 

Jack Brosius coaches athletes in a number of sports in Kent County but for me, his efforts in Kayaking stand out. I first met Jack back in the fall of 2013 at my first Kayaking competition. The conditions and venue provided challenges for athletes and volunteers that left room for improvement if we wanted everyone to have the highest quality experience possible. Jack offered critical feedback while also offering suggestions and solutions on how to improve the entire kayaking program. Since that time Jack has been instrumental in continuing to coach his athletes, while also helping lead coach education efforts for all coaches. Jack was instrumental in moving our state kayaking competition to the Chester River at Washington College where we conduct what I would argue is the best Kayaking competition in all of Special Olympics. And by the way, Jack competed at the 1972 Olympic Games on the USA Kayak team. Jack’s passion for kayaking is only exceeded by his passion for our athletes.

On Sunday, September 25th, I attended our cycling qualifier at St. John Properties Melford Center in Bowie, where 45 athletes competed in races of 500m, 1k, 2k, 5k, 10k, and 15k. The delegation of athletes competing from Prince Georges County was coached by Chris Militello and Gretchen Sumbrum. This dynamic duo has been coaching since 2006. Like Jack, their passion extends beyond the sport and beyond coaching. The competition at Melford was planned and run by Chris and Gretchen. They secured the facility, and the timing team/system and coordinated with the Bowie Police Department for traffic safety as the course is on a public road. They organized registration, determined the divisions for each race, set the race course, recruited and coordinated volunteers, and managed the entire event. Chris is an owner of Arrow Bicycle in Hyattsville and has leveraged his passion and knowledge of cycling for the benefit of SOMD cycling athletes. Several years ago, he saw a need for quality helmets to ensure the safety of all our cyclists and put a program in place to supply new properly fitting helmets to every cyclist. We continue to work with Chris to sustain this effort by providing helmets to new athletes and new helmets to returning riders every several years based on the condition of the helmets.

John McDonough has a lifelong passion for soccer, and we are fortunate that he has been sharing that passion with our athletes for the last 20 years as a coach and league coordinator. John loves to coach his teams in Howard County and has always wanted to provide them with opportunities to play which led to establishing the fall soccer league at Cedar Lane Park in Columbia. The league kicked off again this year on September 17th and will continue weekly through our state tournament on October 30th.  John works with Melissa Anger on our team to coordinate the league games that are played under the direction of certified soccer officials. I will always remember standing on the sidelines with John last year during the first week of league play which marked our return to in-person competition as we emerged from Covid. Thanks to John’s commitment those games brought joy and offered hope to our players, coaches, families, and officials. The joy of soccer continues this fall for John’s team and all the others competing in the league, we can’t wait.


Sarah Ford is a Learning for Life Educator at Twin Ridge Elementary School in Frederick County. Sarah is one of the first teachers to bring the Young Athletes Program into her classroom and has been a Young Athletes coach since the Fall of 2017. Sarah goes above and beyond for her students as she works hard to provide a learning environment that is welcoming, encouraging, and celebrates all abilities. Sarah was a driving force during Twin Ridge Elementary School’s effort to be nationally recognized by Special Olympics North America for excellence as a Unified Champion Schools program as they became the first elementary school here in Maryland to receive this honor. Special Olympics Maryland is proud and fortunate to have Sarah providing incredible opportunities for her students all of whom are leading the way in creating a Unified® generation. 

Our Young Athletes Program extends beyond schools into communities and Diany and Robbie McLuckie, are parents and coaches of Young Athletes, Lili and Elena who happen to be their daughters. The McLuckie family got involved with the Special Olympics in the Fall of 2017. They began coaching in the Spring of 2018. The McLuckies make inclusion a family affair! Lili and Elena were introduced as toddlers as they were learning to walk. The introductory motor skill development activities in our Young Athletes Program provide a pathway for accelerating both motor skill and cognitive development. The McLuckies urge everyone they know to #ExperienceInclusion through Young Athletes and in everyday life. Diany is also the co-founder of a nonprofit project, Friendship by LiliZach, that serves new parents of children with Down Syndrome in Frederick County, Maryland, and beyond. Their commitment and dedication to the Frederick County Young Athletes Program have inspired Special Olympics Maryland to work toward establishing a second Young Athletes training site in Frederick County! Special Olympics Maryland is lucky to have the McLuckies. 

We also have a very strong Interscholastic Unified Sports program in high schools across the state. At the high school level, coaches face many challenges in playing a vital role in providing student-athletes with meaningful experiences that contribute to their personal growth. Willie Bennett Jr. and  Tamekia Johnson lead the Unified® Track & Field team at Suitland High School in Prince George’s County which has been an absolute staple in our Track & Field program for years. Willie and Tamekia sustained their program through the pandemic when they had a Unified team of 40 athletes during the spring of 2021 which served as a catalyst for the 2022 Spring season which culminated in a return to the state championship meet at the Prince Georges Sports and Learning Complex. Willie & Tamekia have been pillars of that program for years and will continue to do so! These two exemplify the spirit of their peers…hundreds of other IUS coaches across the state who are unwavering in their commitment to providing the highest quality Unified® Sports experience to their student-athletes.

Anyone who has ever trained and competed in organized sports programs understands the importance and value of dedicated coaches. On behalf of all of our athletes, family members, and supporters…I want to thank every coach who coaches our Special Olympics athletes and Unified® teammates. Without you – our athletes would not have the privilege and opportunity of experiencing the joy of the sport. Through sport, you are helping create a world where opportunity is not limited by disability.

I would love to hear from you if you have a “coach” story that further illustrates the important role they play and the impact that they have on our athletes…please share any accounts of impactful coaching with me at jschmutz@somd.org. 

All the best,

Jim Schmutz

Note: Thank you to Mike Czarnowsky, Jeff Abel, Mackenzie Irvin, Melissa Anger, and Zach Cintron for contributing to this message.