SOWI says goodbye to a good friend

September 28, 2018 Blog, Events, Featured

Dennis H. Alldridge

Special Olympics Wisconsin lost a beloved member of its community earlier this month when former CEO Denny Alldridge passed away on September 5 at his home in Stoughton at the age of 72.

Alldridge was the longest-serving leader of Special Olympics Wisconsin, heading the organization from 1989 until his retirement in 2016. In that time he made a profound impact on the organization. During his nearly three-decade-long tenure, Special Olympics Wisconsin grew to be one of the leading programs in the world. In 2011, Denny was one of just eight Special Olympics CEO’s from around the world who were recognized as Legendary Leaders for demonstrating extraordinary vision and making significant impact and contributions to the growth of the Special Olympics movement.

Alldridge was well known for his great relationship with athletes and for understanding the importance of giving athletes opportunities to show the world how capable individuals with intellectual disabilities could be as leaders and advocates. Several athletes who could truly attest to his character and legacy spoke at his service on Sunday, September 23.

Alldridge at the 2016 State Summer Games

Alldridge at the 2016 State Summer Games

Special Olympics Wisconsin athlete and former Special Olympics International Global Messenger Martha Hill was one of those athletes who spoke at his service about how much Alldridge touched her life.

“He helped me on an amazing journey to become an athlete leader. He always encouraged me to be an advocate for my fellow athletes and I feel certain his advocacy on my behalf led me to be chosen as an International Global Messenger, then later his nomination led to me being selected to serve on the International Law Enforcement Torch Run Executive Council. It was in that setting I learned just how much Special Olympics Wisconsin was respected around the world due to Denny’s leadership,” Hill said during the service.

In the spirit of Alldridge’s generosity and advocacy, Special Olympics Wisconsin created the Dennis H. Alldridge Hall of Fame in 2016 to recognize athletes and volunteers who make exceptional impacts in their communities to further the mission of Special Olympics.

Hill was the second athlete to enter into the Hall of Fame when she was inducted during the 2017 State Summer Games. This year, David Thompson joined Hill and Cindy Bentley as the athletes in Alldridge’s Hall of Fame. Like Hill, Thompson considered Alldridge a true friend and mentor.

“Denny was the most selfless person that I’ve ever met. He gave his life to Special Olympics and the athletes and their families,” Thompson said. “He changed my life in ways that words can’t even come close to explaining.”

Thompson (at podium) is joined by Hill (right) and Cindy Bentley in honoring Alldridge at the 2016 Summer Games

Thompson (at podium) is joined by Hill (right), Cindy Bentley (left) and Vince Vitrano (far right) in honoring Alldridge at the 2016 Summer Games

Alldridge has also left a lasting legacy of embracing the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics and understanding its importance to the mission of Special Olympics. Under joint leadership with the state Torch Run Directors and Council, the LETR went from raising $100,000 annually to $1 million per year by 2002. By 2010, Wisconsin’s amazing law enforcement community was raising $2 million a year for Special Olympics Wisconsin athletes. Since 1989, Wisconsin’s Torch Run has raised more than $30 million.

Events that still thrive today like the Polar Plunge, Truck Convoy, Run with the Cops and Cop on a Rooftop were initiated in partnership with the LETR.

While it is impossible to truly quantify the impact Alldridge has left on Special Olympics Wisconsin, one thing is for sure: his presence is one that the Special Olympics Wisconsin family will feel for many years to come.

“That man left a legacy that will never be forgotten and he will forever be missed,” Thompson said.

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