As the longest tenured CEO in the Special Olympics Movement, Dennis (Denny) Alldridge has announced plans to retire in July 2016.
He began his career in Wisconsin in June of 1989 after serving as CEO of Special Olympics Illinois for nine years. In a congratulatory letter, Eunice Kennedy Shriver wrote, “Usually, the resignation of one of our best Chapter Directors would be an occasion for sadness. But in this case we are happy for you, happy for Wisconsin Special Olympics and happy that you have given the new Executive Director in Illinois such a strong and vibrant program to administer.”
Denny’s numerous accomplishments during his career with Special Olympics include:
- Served on the North American Special Olympics Professionals (NASOP) original slate of officers at its inception in the mid 1980’s. NASOP was instrumental in bringing members of the Board of Directors to Special Olympics business meetings and conferences, involving them in the decisions affecting the movement. He also served as Chair of NASOP in the early 1990’s.
- Served on the United States Leadership Council, North America Leadership Council and countless other committees and task forces over his career.
- Attended every World Games since the 1981 International Special Olympics Winter Games in Stowe, VT.
- Served as the Vice Chair of the International LETR Council for 18 years. Denny served as Chair of the LETR Council from the Summer Business meeting through the LETR International Conference in Long Beach, CA in 2010. The only time in the history of the LETR Executive Council a Special Olympics CEO has served in this capacity.
- Attended every International Law Enforcement Torch Run conference since the inaugural training conference held in 1984 in Overland Park, KS.
- During his tenure at SOIL he led the development, construction and completion of a Special Olympics Headquarters building just off campus of Illinois State University. The headquarters has been added onto since and a Tribute Park dedicated. This stands out as one of his crowning achievements in his career.
- Only the second CEO in the history of SOWI.
- Named one of the Top Executives in Dane County, WI in 1995.
- Induction into the International LETR Richard LaMunyon Hall of Fame in 1996.
- Served as LETR Final Leg support team member in Japan in 2005 and China in 2007.
- Honored to host two EKS Program Fellows, Dasha Zakharova SO Russia in 2009; and Lauren Quinn, SO South Africa in 2010.
- Watch Denny, along with seven other movement leaders, who were part of a sit down interview with Tim Shriver in 2011, in honor of Eunice Kennedy Shriver.
- Induction into the Wisconsin LETR Dale Brunner Hall of Fame in 2013.
Denny was attracted to the CEO position at SOWI because of the forward-thinking Board of Directors and staff. The staff wanted to become paid employees of Special Olympics in order to have the capacity to deliver better services to the athletes. Under his leadership, the state was divided into seven areas and each area had a paid Area Director. Eventually all seven Area Directors became full-time employees of SOWI. During the early 1990’s this was an extremely progressive decision and SOWI lead the US Programs as the first state to have paid, full-time Area Directors to deliver services to the athletes.
From the very first day at SOWI, Denny embraced the Torch Run and was very supportive of Wisconsin’s law enforcement officers who were raising $100,000 for our athletes annually. Under joint leadership with the state Torch Run Directors and Council, by 2002 Wisconsin’s Torch Run became a $1M program and hit the $2M mark in 2010. Since 1989, Wisconsin’s Torch Run has raised nearly $29 million! Fittingly, as Wisconsin’s Torch Run celebrates its 30th Anniversary in 2016, the Torch Run will surpass raising $30 million for Wisconsin’s athletes.
Denny has been one of the cornerstones in the success of the Torch Run, not only here in Wisconsin, but worldwide and has dedicated his career to the mission and goals of the Torch Run. When Denny was inducted into the Wisconsin LETR Dale Brunner Hall of Fame, Dale shared, “As much as he has always made law enforcement feel a part of the Special Olympics family, we want him to also feel a part of the law enforcement family.”
Under Denny’s leadership, new LETR events including the Polar Plunge®, Over the Edge, World’s Largest Truck Convoy®, Run with the Cops and countless others were started and today, Wisconsin’s LETR is the 7th largest in the world and continuously raises more than $2 million annually for Wisconsin’s athletes. Denny issued many challenges to the LETR over the years because he knew the dedication and commitment of the officers involved in the LETR, who serve as Guardian’s of the Flame®, would get the job done and done well!
Denny shared that throughout the past 35 years the driving motivation behind the joy of these positions was the opportunity to meet and get to know the athletes we serve. When the challenges of the job became a little too much, which it will do occasionally, the athletes are always there to lighten the load. “I know I won’t be able to name everyone, but the opportunity to get to know Cindy Bentley, Martha Hill, David Thompson, Jr., Jake Casper, Olivia Quigley, Daina Shilts and so many others really helped me through the rough spots and kept me focused on the work that made a difference in their lives and the lives of so many more. A bit of advice to those CEO’s new to the position; get to know the athletes in your program. Once you begin to understand what drives them, it will make your work so much easier and joyful.”
Denny feels he has been fortunate to work with some of the finest and most dedicated staff in the movement. Whatever has been accomplished throughout his career has been because of their tireless efforts. Framed in his office is his favorite adage, ‘It’s amazing how much you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit.’
“I have truly been blessed in my life. Thanks to all of you who have enriched it in so many ways”, added Denny.
On behalf of the entire Special Olympics Wisconsin family, we want to share our deepest appreciation for Denny’s tireless and steadfast leadership.