SOWI athletes prove essential during pandemic

July 2, 2020 Blog, Featured

While many of us across Wisconsin have spent much of the last few months social distancing to slow down the spread of COVID-19, many people have been hard at work on the frontlines keeping essential businesses open.

Although society came to a standstill in unprecedented ways, Wisconsinites needed to be able to keep food on the table, have access to health care, and maintain other critical elements of the economy as much as possible.

In fact, many Special Olympics Wisconsin athletes work in essential services and bravely continued to work at grocery stores, gas stations and other critical businesses throughout the pandemic.

“I think that doing the live sportscasts and other Zoom meetings helped make me feel better. It’s always a pleasure to see everyone’s faces, especially when we don’t get to hang out with each other.” – Tyler Wigington

Tyler Derringer of West Allis Special Olympics actually spent quarantine pulling double duty at his two jobs.  For more than a decade now, the athlete coach has worked at a Pick ‘n Save grocery store and a Speedway gas station. It was definitely a unique time for him at work, especially early in the quarantine when there was a run on items that people feared would run out. “The madness around shortages of toilet paper and other things was pretty bad,” Derringer said.

Although things were less chaotic at Speedway, it still made for a stressful few months as Derringer was very publicly up against an invisible and scary threat. Thankfully, his decades as a Special Olympics athlete helped him through the tough times. “Special Olympics helped me to have hope that things will get back to normal in due time,” Derringer said.

When Lora Behr of the Sheboygan Adult Program wasn’t hosting the Special Olympics Wisconsin Celebration Ceremony during quarantine, she spent much of her time working at Piggly Wiggly, where she’s worked for 13 years now. She was thankful to her employers for their commitment to her and her coworkers by taking steps to ensure their safety.

As a Health Leader, she felt well prepared to tackle this unusual circumstance. “Special Olympics and Healthy Athletes encouraged me to stay healthy and safe around other people and respect their choices,” Behr said.

Sandi Storch of the YMCA of Dane County agency has worked through the pandemic at McDonald’s in Sun Prairie, helping to keep her community fed as a Drive Thru Specialist. Storch has been especially brave in continuing to work and serve her community because she lives with her parents, who are in their seventies and more vulnerable to COVID-19. “When I come home I shower right away and change my clothes so I keep my dad and my mom safe,” Storch said.

Storch’s mom returned the favor by making fashionable masks for her and her coworkers to wear in place of the standard masks issued by the company.

Sandi Storch shows off one of her mom’s masks while on a break at McDonald’s

Tyler Wigington of the West Madison Area Special Olympics agency has worked through the pandemic as an essential worker at his local Woodman’s grocery store. It was a struggle for him to work during such stressful conditions, but ever the trooper, he powered through. “It was very tough with lots of people going crazy at times,” Wigington said.

However, the Special Olympics Wisconsin community was a big help for Wigington through the crisis, even though he couldn’t be with them in person.

“I think that doing the live sportscasts and other Zoom meetings helped make me feel better. It’s always a pleasure to see everyone’s faces, especially when we don’t get to hang out with each other,” Wigington said.

“Special Olympics Wisconsin has taught me that I can be very strong.” – Travis Stuckart

Travis Stuckart of the Manitowoc County Miracles continued to work through the entirety of the quarantine at Festival Foods, where he has worked for 6 ½ years now. Like with other athletes who didn’t have the luxury of staying home, it was sometimes a stressful period for Stuckart. This was especially the case when it seemed like some people weren’t taking the virus seriously. “I wish others were more careful with the pandemic,” Stuckart said.

Thankfully, his years of training as an athlete and as a leader came in handy. “Special Olympics Wisconsin has taught me that I can be very strong,” Stuckart said. “It has also taught me how to be a leader and to be compassionate for others.”

Special Olympics Wisconsin is proud to have helped its athletes through the pandemic in its own small way.

And to the many, many athletes who have worked through the pandemic as essential workers, Special Olympics Wisconsin says, “THANK YOU!”

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