Army veteran volunteers as Viroqua Special Olympics agency co-manager

April 1, 2016

Jordan Loper and Glen Loper

When Viroqua Special Olympians need a little something extra, from fundraising help, to equipment, to a ride to practice, they have an ace-in-the-hole. At the gym, track, bowling alley, softball diamond, or on the road at regional and state tournaments, retired U.S. Army veteran Glen Loper is never far from the action in his role as agency co-manager.

It’s a place the 66-year-old feels at home, an outlet for a deep desire to serve. “It makes me happy. There nothing like it, really. To watch them compete, do their best, and the sportsmanship they show, it’s really a thrill.”

Loper has been involved with Special Olympics since 2008, when his grandson, Jordan Loper, joined Viroqua’s Special Olympics track and field team as a fifth-grader. Now Glen is a regular, providing encouragement and assistance to program coaches, driving athlete vans around the state, and making sure athletes have their paperwork and equipment squared away.

His dedication to the agency’s success — and his straightforward manner — reflects a military career that spanned more than two decades. From a 1969 tour of duty in Vietnam, to his 1991 retirement after service in Operation Desert Storm, Loper rose to first sergeant rank in the U.S. Army, eventually sharing responsibility for more than 200 soldiers attached to the 3rd Squadron of the 7th Calvary in Germany. Loper loves the Army, and wears his “Vietnam Veteran” cap proudly. But his years of service, and participation in two conflicts, took a toll.

Since 2004, he’s been receiving treatment at the Tomah Veterans Affairs Medical Center for post-traumatic stress disorder. But Loper said his involvement with Special Olympics is his best medicine. “It helps me a lot. When I’m with the kids, it helps me relax, and forget the stuff I don’t need to think about.”

Loper’s colleagues describe him as a solid team member. Viroqua School Board member Kim Littel, who ran the program for 35 years before her retirement in 2014, said Loper helps out any way he can. “He’s very willing. When you get the opportunity to work with those athletes who give it all, you really get more out of it than you put in.”

Current agency manager Michelle Drucker agreed. She said Loper is a trusted recruiter, who’s helped the program grow to 29 athletes in 2016. “He is always looking around the community, talking to folks, and keeping an eye out for athletes that will benefit from the Special Olympics. Many times he has handed me a little slip of paper with an athletes name and phone number on it with the orders, ‘Now you give them a call, they would really do well on our team’.”

Loper’s fundraising skill carries the team as well. This year, he’s obtained van and fuel donations from Sleepy Hollow Motors and Mobil 1, a sign donation from LaCrosse Signs, and cash contributions from the Viroqua VFW Post 3032, VARC and the American Legion. “He is a dedicated fundraiser. He keeps our program going strong,” Drucker said.

And now that track and field season is a just couple weeks away, and softball a couple months away, Loper’s in recruitment mode again, this time for people to share the joy he’s found in Special Olympics. “With this crowd of young’uns we’re getting, we could use some more volunteers.”


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