Dave Glover has volunteered for Special Olympics Minnesota 46 of its 50 years in existence. With a humble heart and lifelong commitment to service, he has helped shape the organization into what it is today. Dave has coached, mentored, taught and led volunteers and athletes in almost every way possible throughout his time at SOMN.
As Dave moves into a new chapter of life and retires from his volunteer role at Special Olympics Minnesota, he believes the organization will continue to thrive and grow for years to come. He’s hopeful that young people with service-minded hearts will step into the Special Olympics community that enriched his life for decades.
Service became a way of life for Dave from a young age. He remembers a senior project in high school where he volunteered in respite care for families with young children with disabilities.
That experience sparked an interest in Dave, but teachers were not encouraging special education as a possible career for him at the time. “I was told I wasn’t very bright and didn’t do well in the classroom,” recalled Dave. “I was told I should get a job in a factory, but in 1969, I won the lottery of getting chosen for the draft.”
Dave spent three years in the Marine Corps, serving 29 months at Camp Lejeune. “There were days I said ‘I want to give up, I can’t do this’, but I’d tell myself, ‘you signed the form, you made the commitment, so you have to follow through with the commitment,” said Dave.
After his time in the military, Dave had the GI Bill, which helped pay for his college . He went to the University of Dubuque in Iowa where he got a degree in Special Education with honors. Then, with money left over, he decided to get his Master’s in Education Professional Development (MEPD) at the University of River Falls in Wisconsin.
Dave applied his education and passion for helping children with disabilities at Red Wing High School, where he taught and coached for 32 years.
Soon after he started teaching, Dave learned about Special Olympics Minnesota’s programs that could help his students. “A friend of mine who worked at a children’s home asked if I would volunteer as a coach,” said Dave. “I did it and realized it was a heck of a program, and it gave my students a chance to get out of their normal routines and into the public.”
Dave went on to coach six different sports, mentored athletes in the leadership program, represented Special Olympics Minnesota as a volunteer at national and international competitions and so much more.
“Our movement would not be where we are today without the influence and dedication Dave has had on so many people over the years,” said Dave Dorn, President and CEO of Special Olympics Minnesota. “He always puts the athletes first, emphasizing and encouraging their efforts and accomplishments. “Dave is an example to all of us on how to celebrate everyone’s ability, whatever that may be.”
In 1995, Dave was asked to lead staging for track and field events at Summer Games. With 1,500 athletes competing in multiple events, staging is what keeps everything running smoothly. Over the span of 28 years, Dave recruited a loyal team of volunteers and created staging systems that will carry over for future generations.
“Dave has led with a calm and wise demeanor, assisting volunteers and helping athletes experience the joy that comes from achieving their goals,” said Kelly Monicatti, Vice President of Sports, Health & Schools at SOMN. “We will draw upon the information and tools he’s leaving behind, so we can continue to thrive and grow for years to come.”
Despite the major investment of time and energy he gave to the staging role, Dave insists most of the credit goes to the volunteers who helped him. “The biggest thing in staging is not me as the head of it, it’s the 15 key volunteers that I had,” said Dave. “I’ve told Dave Dorn that I’d put them all up against any state program as far as staging area volunteers go. We have the best. I’ll miss seeing those folks and their dedication.”
Beyond track and field, another major area of influence Dave had was in the Special Olympics Minnesota’s Athlete Leadership Program. He worked with individual athletes to help them become spokespeople for the movement and find success in other areas of their lives. Kayte Barton was one of those athletes who benefited from mentoring sessions with Dave.
“I used to be extremely shy but Dave helped me break out of my shell,” said Kayte. “He taught me what it looks like to be a leader. His favorite quote is ‘change takes time’ and the time it takes to change actually benefits the community and people involved as well.”
Dave remembers working with Kayte and is not surprised at the way she uses her voice to advocate for people with disabilities now. “When I see athletes grow confidence like that, it just makes me feel good,” said Dave. “Special Olympics athletes are so committed to whatever they do. They work so hard.”
Dave trusts that everyone at Special Olympics Minnesota will continue to work hard and provide the kind of services that impressed him when he first started volunteering 46 years ago. “I’ve seen more initiatives in the last ten years than ever before with programs like Young Athletes, Unified Sports, Health Programs and others,” said Dave. “As long as they have leaders who encourage athletes to dream and come forward with ideas, there’s no limit to what they can do.”
Dave admits it will be different sitting on the sidelines at next year’s Summer Games. “It’s hard letting go. So many of the volunteers are people I only see once a year, but it makes me feel good that they’ll be back,” said Dave. “It’s mixed emotions for me.”
As he settles into a new chapter of life with his wife, kids, and grandchildren, Dave reflects on his commitment to SOMN. “It’s been a good run. Quite truthfully though, I think I got more out of Special Olympics than I gave to it,” said Dave. “Meeting the athletes, parents, coaches, other volunteers and the staff has meant so much to me. It’s been a great run.”