Checking in with the Athlete Leaders: Jonathon Baker

April 21, 2020 Blog, Featured

As Special Olympics Wisconsin athletes across the state stay home to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, Special Olympics Wisconsin’s Vice President of Unified Leadership, Jeanne Hrovat, is reaching out by phone to members of the Athlete Input Council (AIC) and other athlete leaders. We recognize the importance of checking in with people and going the extra mile to stay connected during this time of social distancing. We will be publishing her accounts of these conversations. They have been lightly edited for clarity. 

By Jeanne Hrovat

Recently, I talked with Jonathon Baker from Cuba City. He has been on the AIC since 2017. He is also a Global Messenger, Athlete Health Leader and Athlete Coach. Jonathon has been a Special Olympics Wisconsin athlete for 16 years and we go way back. Our conversation reminded me of many good times.

Jonathon and I met when he was in school in 2006 and he attended a Global Messenger workshop that we conducted through “Distance Learning.” We had four sites around the state – Cuba City, Eau Claire, Burlington and Wausau. There was a trainer at each site and we connected via TV. (This was, of course, well before Zoom or GoToMeeting became a daily part of our lives.)

Jonathon refreshed his Global Messenger skills in 2019, and had a chance to put them to good use in January when he traveled with our Unified Champion Schools Coordinator, Bianca Yager, to her alma mater at Highland High School. Jonathon also spoke alongside Miss Wisconsin, Alyssa Bohm, at Highland’s Respect Week event. He reported that he was very nervous, but he got through it and felt like the students heard his message. He said he would be willing to do it again.

Jonathon is a custodian at Cuba City High School and since the schools are closed, he has not been able to work. Instead, he has been keeping busy by helping his mom babysit his two-year-old niece, Bentley, and his one-year-old nephew, Tegan. Because he has not been able to play basketball with his team, he has been shooting baskets in his driveway and will start to practice his pitching for softball at the end of the month. He has a personal health goal to consume less sugar, but admitted that the leftover Easter candy could be a weak spot.

Jonathan Baker (second from left) at Highland High School for Respect Week in 2020

At the end of our conversation, I asked Jonathon some sample questions from our upcoming Customer Satisfaction survey. When asked how he would rate SOWI, he chose the highest rating of five. When asked what experiences made him choose this rating, Jonathon talked about one of our first Youth Summits in 2009 held in conjunction with State Summer Games.

This is what Jonathon said: “When I was in school the end of my freshman year, we had to pick a non-Special Olympics athlete to go to Stevens Point to the Youth Summit. We had dinner and talked, we got to stay overnight in the dorms and got to know everyone. We had to do nicknames. We made a book and used nicknames from the night before. That actually helped me get out of my shell.”

Jonathon often talks about how shy he was as a child and how SOWI sports and athlete leadership workshops have helped him come out of his shell. He is thankful for all the staff who make these programs possible.

His work plan goals for the remainder of the year:

  • Have his own personal health plan (lose weight, work out more, etc.) – he is already drinking less soda
  • Volunteer as an Athlete Health Leader at regional or state games
  • Gold Star Standard – Conduct Lifestyle Survey and Team Captain Stickers – Jonathon helped with the surveys two years ago at Summer Games and wants to do stickers at OST
  • Host an Athlete Health Leader and/or Athlete Health Messenger – aiming for fall maybe in conjunction with Platteville since they are doing SOFit.
  • Recruit a new UCS school – spoke at Highland HS

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