Regionalization Follow-Up Webinars:
For the Regionalization session held during the Virtual Leadership Conference, each of the SOPA departments shared updates on the changes that you can expect to experience within your program as you transition to a region. We will dig into these topics and are excited to share these updates with you. We want to maximize participation and will be following up with each program to make sure you have someone attending. The more you know about regionalization the more comfortable you will be. Below are the links to register for the sessions – PRE-REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED.
- Competition: September 14th at 7:00pm
- We will review do a high level review of Return to Activities and planning for Fall Sectionals and Fall Fest. As a follow-up from Leadership we will take a deeper dive into Strategic Plan goals as it relates to training, competition, coach education and Unified Sports and explain what impacts these have on regions and local programs.
- REGISTER HERE in advance of the meeting
- Finance In the Regional Model: September 21st at 7:00pm
- Learn about the on-line spending approval processes once you enter a region. A brief demo will be provided!
- The status of your reserve accounts at Haverford Trust will also be discussed.
- Come and learn! REGISTER HERE in advance of this meeting
- Fundraising as a Region: September 22nd at 7:00pm
- We will review fundraising in a Regional model, shared revenue opportunities, discuss donor relations and management, share information on statewide LETR’s structure and review grant opportunities.
- You won’t want to miss this informative webinar!
- REGISTER HERE in advance of this meeting
- Marketing & Communication: Wednesday, September 29th at 7pm.
- Join us for an in-depth discussion about how Marketing & Communications will function under our new regionalization model and is described within the Regional Playbook. We will discuss branding, media relations, web management, social media, guidelines & resource materials. We will also answer questions and talk about ways to expand our offerings/approach to set each region up for success.
- REGISTER HERE in advance of this meeting
- Athlete Leadership: October 25th at 7:00 PM - REGISTER HERE in advance of this meeting
Special Olympics PA Regionalization Update – July 2021
As you know, we officially launched our first region, The Greater Lehigh Valley Pocono Region (GLVPR) in 2020. Special Olympics Pennsylvania is pleased to announce that we will launch two additional regions in January of 2022. The two new regions will be Region 7 which includes Adams, Area M, Lancaster, Lebanon, Mifflin/Juniata, and York and Region 2 which includes Centre, Clearfield, Clinton, Dubois/Jefferson, Elk/Cameron, McKean and Potter.
We are excited that in Region 7 our existing Area M staff will assume Regional roles. Kerry Wevodau will become the Regional Executive Director, and Shannon Pechart will serve as the Regional Sport Director. This is a huge advantage as Kerry and Shannon are passionate about our mission, know our organization, have built strong relationships with neighboring programs, and are proven leaders. Their experience will help ensure the successful stand up of this region.
The interview process for all positions will include athletes and volunteers from the respective regions. We will begin recruiting for the Region 2 Regional Executive Director immediately with the goal of filling that key leadership position by early September. We will fill the remaining positions in both regions starting in September.
We are excited to move forward with these two new regions, eager to build on the work of GLVPR, and committed to continuous learning as we go through the process of adding new regions. Regionalization will be one of the main topics of discussion during the Leadership Conference in August. We will provide several breakout sessions that will be led by department staff and volunteers that will focus on regionalization impact as it relates to competition, athlete leadership, fundraising, outreach, marketing and finance. We hope to see you there!
We are excited to share that Gina Reid was recently promoted as the VP of Regional Growth. In this critical role, she will work with our Field Team and local Programs to help stand up our new regions and oversee our regional volunteer/staff teams. If you would like more information about the overall reorganization plan or have questions about regionalization, please email Gina Reid at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Greater Lehigh Valley Pocono Region:
We are excited to provide an update for our region. Our last update was early 2020 when we hired our team and were preparing to begin regional operations at our new office. Since then, like everyone else, we have operated under COVID-19 guidelines. There are many things that we hoped to do that we haven’t been able to, but the pandemic has given us the opportunity to create processes and procedures to ensure that our region and future regions are able to operate effectively and efficiently. I am excited to share our progress and look forward to seeing two new regions added in January.
- The Regional Playbook was developed in partnership with local volunteers, athletes and staff.
- The Regional Playbook outlines the various processes and procedures for a new region covering Sports, Communications, Outreach, Fundraising and Finance.
- It is important to note that this is a “living document”. As we move forward and get to put these policies and procedures into practice we will likely find updates that need to be made to the Playbook.
- You can access and review the Regional Playbook on our SOPA website.
- Community engagement opportunities for Global Messengers including presentation to Moravian College Disability, Independence, and Functioning from a Public Health Perspective course, presentation to Corporate Virtual Community Fair, presentations such as Rotary and Grange organizations
- Developed regional and local team logos that include regional branding
- Regional website created and launched that includes pages for Local Teams
- Regional Facebook page created
- Update Crisis Management documents to include Regional Staff
- Developed Regional Marketing Plan
- Regional team working as primary Public Relations contact with local and regional media
- Regional Polar Pop, increased engagement and revenue with a number of Local Teams
- Successful grant submitted on behalf of Local Team to secure Bocce equipment
- Regional staff fostering relationships with state donors who live within the region
- Regional Administrative Manager responsible for Vsys record oversight management as it applies to all regional records and events
- Launch of the new online registration and sports physical form submission. Managed and processed at a regional level by the Regional Administrative Manager
- Partnership formed with the Volunteer Center to assist in recruiting volunteers and coaches for the region
- Partnership formed with local community college to offer fieldwork credit to Early Childhood Education students as Young Athletes coaches
- Development of Training Site Evaluations
- Regional coaches meeting scheduled
- Partnership developed to offer Young Athletes program at local Head Start facilities
I am incredibly proud of what we have accomplished in the Region. I look forward to continuing to engage community partnerships to create more opportunities for our Region and to finally seeing our athletes back competing in-person.
Executive Director, Greater Lehigh Valley Pocono Region
Historical Reorganization Content:
Reorganization Update - March 2020
We are thrilled to announce that after a lengthy and thorough selection process, we have hired staff for Region 5. The hiring process included representatives from the local program teams as well as athletes from our region.
Meet our staff….
Greg Bott – Regional Development Director
For the past 10 years Greg has served as the Director of Development for the Lehigh Valley Center for Independent Living. There he successfully secured federal, state, local and foundation funding for programs to support persons with disabilities through grants, fundraising events, corporate sponsorships and individual gifts. In fact, Greg knows a number of our athletes. In addition to development work, Greg led the marketing and social media campaigns for the agency.
Start date: Wednesday, March 11
Phone: Main number 610-850-0449 x 3
Internal SOPA extension x 353
Jason Merola – Regional Sports Director
Prior to joining SOPA, Jason’s career has been focused in event and tournament management and execution. While at ArtsQuest, a Bethlehem-based nonprofit, Jason planned and executed 15 large-scale events annually, working with teams of volunteers to support the events. Previous to that, he worked as the Beach Sports Manager organizing a number of summer sporting events including a soccer tournament with 1,000 registered teams.
Start date: March 23
Phone: Main number 610-850-0449 x 4
Internal SOPA extension x 354
My phone (Julie Benjamin):
Main number 610-850-0449 x 1
Internal SOPA extension x 351
2158 Avenue C, Suite 201
Bethlehem, PA 18017
The office is conveniently located just off of Route 22 and as close as we could get to the geographic center of the region.
And we have an official name…
As part of our inclusive process for the development and naming of “Region 5,” an email voting survey was sent to athletes and Class A volunteers in the region soliciting votes to name the region. From the two name options with an opportunity to provide their own suggestion, the winner is: Greater Lehigh Valley & Pocono Region
Please join me in welcoming the new Greater Lehigh Valley & Pocono Region staff. We will identify a future date for a staff visit to the new office. In the meantime, everyone is welcome.
Executive Director, Region 5
It is with great pleasure that I announce the appointment of Julie Benjamin as the Executive Director for our pilot region (Region 5)! Julie comes to us from Artsquest in Bethlehem where she served as the VP of Community Partnerships and Executive Director for Levitt Pavilion, and most recently from the Allentown School District as their Director of Communications. You can read more about Julie in our press release.
Julie’s first day was Monday, December 16th and she has really hit the ground running! Julie had lunch with a small group of volunteer leaders from around Region 5, and more such opportunities will be planned in the near future so she can meet and get to know as many athletes, volunteers, family members, and other stakeholders as possible.
Julie is working with other team members to finalize work already begun by our Transition Team and other priorities for launching our first region including:
- Posting and hiring the remaining regional staff positions (Admin Manager, Sports Director, and Development Director). Volunteers from the region will be including in the interview process.
- Selecting and opening the regional office (multiple locations are currently under consideration).
- Deploying and using the results from an Athlete Satisfaction Survey to give us baseline information and help set priorities (this will be going out statewide, but we will use regional results to help establish focus areas).
- Developing a regional webpage
- Supporting the upcoming Lehigh Valley Plunge.
- Creating a “playbook” other regions can use in the future.
While it took longer than we had hoped to find an executive director (we initiated the hiring process in August and reviewed nearly 200 candidates), it was important to “get it right” and find the right leader for our first region. I would like to thank the other members of our Hiring Team – Christine Rodrigues (Monroe), Ernie Roundtree (Monroe), Carol Erzen (Allegheny), Lynn Lopez (Lancaster), Susan Wyland, and Clare Walsh Miller. They all invested an incredible amount of time and energy into this process, and we all are excited to work with Julie.
I also wanted to share some additional good news. As we prepare to launch our first region and look at how we will best serve our athletes in the future, I am expanding the responsibilities of several of our existing staff. I am excited to announce the following promotions in our program, marketing & development, and administrative teams respectively in recognition of their outstanding performance and the scope of their responsibilities:
- Jordan Schubert, Manager Athlete Leadership & Young Athletes
- Chelsea Drob, Director, Program Initiatives
- Michelle Boone, VP, Sports
- Clare Walsh Miller, Chief Program Officer
- Nick Cammarota, Manager, Digital Marketing & Communications
- Nicole Jones, VP, Marketing & Communications
- Kraig Makohus, VP, Development
- Susan Wyland, Chief Financial Officer
Please join me in welcoming Julie and congratulating all of these team members!
As we look ahead to our next 50 years, I am excited about all of the incredible possibilities we have to do “more and better” for our athletes. I can’t wait to get started!
Thank you for all you do for our athletes…the best is yet to come!
Matthew B. Aaron
President & CEO
PS – I wanted to briefly address a question about funding that came up as these changes and promotions were being considered. All of the new regional positions and the promotions announced above are included in the state budget for 2020. That budget was reviewed and approved by our Board Finance Committee earlier this month (the full Board will review and approve the budget at their next meeting). No local Program funds were utilized. Sustainability has been a key focus for me and for our Board of Directors as we have developed and implemented our reorg plans to ensure the long-term financial health and strength of our organization.
I am pleased to announce that we will be piloting our Reorganization Plan in Region 5 which includes our current Programs in Carbon, Lehigh, Northampton, Bethlehem, Berks, Monroe and Schuylkill. A small group of Reorg Team members recently met individually with all seven local Programs in Region 5 to share info about the reorg and listen to input and feedback. Based on the outcome of these meetings, we are now moving into the Transition and Implementation phases.
Region 5 was selected as the pilot because:
- All local Programs in Region 5 are currently healthy, and we are fortunate to have a lot of experienced volunteer leaders and coaches in this Region. We will definitely count on them to help lead the development of our regionalization model for the rest of the state.
- There are strong community and school-based programs in the region that will facilitate sharing of best practices across the region.
- There is capacity for growth in athletes, volunteers, and donors which includes Unified Champion School programming.
- Region 5 is representative of PA as a whole with a mix of rural and urban areas.
As we bring all Region 5 programs together, our goal is to work as a seamless volunteer/staff team to do more and better for our athletes. Regionalization should help us operate more efficiently and effectively, but for the most part the process should be transparent to our athletes.
Change is never easy, but our reorganization prepares us to better meet the needs of our athletes for the next 50 years. I want to thank and acknowledge our Region 5 Program Leaders for stepping up and being a part of our exciting future.
If you would like more information about the overall reorganization plan which was approved by the SOPA Board of Directors at their February meeting, please visit the reorg page on the SOPA website at:
If you have additional questions after reviewing these materials, you may email Clare Walsh Miller at email@example.com or call 610-630-9450 ext. 235.
President & CEO
Special Olympics Pennsylvania
Want to learn more about the proposed future of Special Olympics Pennsylvania?
Over the past six weeks we've been meeting in various committees regarding the reorganization, and recently presented our work to you: athletes, families, volunteers and supporters!
We just completed a state-wide “road show” and held Town Hall-style meetings in January in each of the proposed regions in Pennsylvania. These meetings were open to any key stakeholder of Special Olympics Pennsylvania.
Couldn't make it to an in-person meeting?
Take a look at a video recording of the presentation.
Download PowerPoint Slides of the presentation.
Two years ago, through various town hall meetings, surveys, focus groups and conversations, it was made clear that in many instances the Special Olympics PA volunteer experience had become more difficult with every expanding requirement -- taking away from the positive experience that we want for every volunteer involved. In addition, the experience for our athletes wasn’t equitable across the state and, on the whole, we were seeing a decrease in athletes served year over year due to several factors. As a result, we put together a “Solutions Team” to review, analyze, and provide recommendations to address these challenges. One of their long-term recommendations was “an organization redesign needs to be carefully studied and various possibilities considered.”
We conducted some preliminary work early last year and shared that with the SOPA Board of Directors at their meeting in August of 2017. Based on that work, there was unanimous agreement that simply making changes and adjustments within our existing structure would not be sufficient to address our challenges and enable us to maximize new opportunities.
The Board tasked our President with putting together a team to review options and provide recommendations. A “Reorganization Working Group” was then chartered and asked to report back with recommendations at the August 2018 Board meeting. They put together a “Way Forward” document that summarizes their work to date and offers a glimpse of where they see things headed.
A general session was conducted during the Leadership Conference in August where the Reorg Working Group introduced their proposed reorganization model, and multiple opportunities were be provided throughout the weekend for volunteers to ask questions and provide feedback.
“What We Heard From You” – Leadership Conference 2018
Thank you to all of you who gave of your valuable time to participate in the Leadership Conference this year. We wanted to share below a summary of key takeaways from the weekend and what we are doing to address the issue or opportunity noted.
Those of you who were at Leadership are aware that several sub-committees have been formed to address specific topics during the next phase of reorganization work. This is an exciting and important time in the history of Special Olympics PA. The changes we implement will shape our future for years, and likely decades, to come. I invite and encourage you to be part of helping us determine what those changes will look like by volunteering to be part of this process.
Reorganization Update and Materials:
- Reorganization Project Update – November 2018
- Proposed Regional Structure
- Task Force Structure and Guidelines
- The Way Forward
Thank you to those who were able to attend our 2018 Leadership Conference. For those of you who were unable to attend our Reorganization presentation, please find conference materials and a video below:
- To see the full reorganization presentation from the conference, view the following: https://youtu.be/4rk_P_xMjVo
- View a copy of the slide deck that was presented.
- If you would like to give feedback, please use the following link to complete our Google doc: https://goo.gl/forms/o5pBEXD4170aoK103
Please share these materials with other members of your management teams, athletes, coaches and other volunteers. As we move forward, we will be sending you a monthly update.