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
Zachary Reetz joined the Athlete Input Council in 2017. He is a certified athlete coach, basketball table official, Athlete Health Messenger and Global Messenger. He also hosted an Introduction to Athlete Leadership for his agency of Waushara County 4-19. He thrives on learning and taking on new challenges.
If you spend any time with Zachary, it won’t take long for him share his long-standing love for the Neshkoro Fire Department. When Zachary was only three years old, his uncle who still volunteers for the fire department, took him to the station. After hearing the siren and seeing the lights of the fire truck, Zachary knew that he wanted to be a fire fighter. Although his bout with meningitis changed his original plan, Zachary remains highly involved with the Fire Department. He attends all their events, raises funds on their behalf and has a part-time job cleaning the fire station. He is also highly interested in community safety and First Aid training and is certified in CPR and AED. He believes all athletes and coaches should being certified in these skills.
When Zachary and I initially spoke early during the quarantine, he was remaining home from work. But he has since returned to his job at Hoffermaster in Oshkosh where he works on contracted jobs rolling silverware in napkins for a local restaurant and providing socks for the statewide prison system. He is proud of his leadership role at the company where he is responsible for inspecting the work before everything is shipped.
One of the many things I love about Zachary is how casually and matter-of-factly he talks about his physical disabilities that would surely derail someone with less resolve. Never before had I received texts like this: “I’m still waiting for my new legs so I’ll be in my wheelchair this weekend.” When speaking of his new cochlear implant which includes a microphone for the speaker to hold: “Please stop moving the microphone around in front of you when you talk. It’s too loud.” (Actually, not the first time I have been told I am too loud.)
During his time at home, Zachary said he had tried to stay fit by walking, but he was back in his chair due to blood blisters from his prostheses. Despite all odds, I think these photos of Zachary at our Athlete Health Messenger workshop and presenting to dozens of self-determination advocates, speak to his physical and leadership strengths.
Finally, if you are Facebook friends with Zachary you will understand his love of hunting. This spring he posted, “I got my first Tom turkey!!! All my years of spring turkey hunting I’ve gotten 5 Jakes and now I can cross off my bucket list a mature Tom spring turkey – 22 lbs, 7/8 inch spurs and 9 inch beard.”
Here are Zachary’s goals for 2020
- Host an Athlete Health Leader and/or Athlete Health Messenger
- Serve on the Gold Star Standard-Games Management Team
- Serve on the Athlete Leader Reunion working team
- Start a Young Athletes program at the elementary school where his nephew attends