Reorganization Updates

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Reorganization Update - December 2019

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.

Reorganization Update - June 2019

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:

  1. 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.
  2. There are strong community and school-based programs in the region that will facilitate sharing of best practices across the region.
  3. There is capacity for growth in athletes, volunteers, and donors which includes Unified Champion School programming.
  4. 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:

https://specialolympicspa.org/reorganization-updates

If you have additional questions after reviewing these materials, you may email Clare Walsh Miller at cwalshmiller@specialolympicspa.org or call 610-630-9450 ext. 235.

Thank you,

Matt Aaron

President & CEO

Special Olympics Pennsylvania

Proposed Future of SOPA
Reorganization Materials & Presentation
Reorganization Background Information