From Wayzata Police Chief Marc Schultz

John Robards is a Special Olympics Minnesota athlete and coach. He most recently participated in the 2024 State Poly Hockey competition.

Over the years, he’s been active with SOMN’s athlete leadership programs, tried his hand at many different sports and most recently was sworn in as an Honorary Reserve Officer with the Wayzata Police Department. Chief Marc Schultz reflected on John’s new role with the department:

Several years ago, John Robards approached our department to make connections between the law enforcement community and our residents with intellectual disabilities. John is well connected to many people in our community of Wayzata as well as within the Special Olympics Minnesota network. John’s goal was to become an ambassador and build relationships that could both help connect law enforcement to Special Olympics athletes and spread awareness. We jumped at the chance to connect!

As I’ve gotten to know John throughout his time here, I’ve also learned his story. John has impacted not only me as a person, but much of our department.

John Robards was born in Bulgaria and spent the first few years of his life in what he remembers as a crowded orphanage until he was adopted and brought to the United States at around four years old.

John said that his initial experience with law enforcement wasn’t a positive one. He remembers that while in that orphanage, the staff would threaten to have police deal with the children if they misbehaved. That shaped some early fears of police for John that he had to overcome when he arrived in the U.S.

After immigrating to the States, John has spent his entire life living in Wayzata. He went to school here, and he has worked at Lunds & Byerlys and Wayzata Community Church.

The first time I met John and his family was a few years ago when I was newly appointed chief. John came to the police department and introduced himself. He told us he was interested in partnering with Wayzata Police Department for the Special Olympics Law Enforcement Torch Run.

John asked if we would be interested in providing opportunities for the residents of our community with special needs. His goal was to just have folks spend time with law enforcement to help break down barriers like he had experienced in the past. Over the last few years, many of us have had the opportunity to not only get to know John, but also learn the impact Special Olympics has on the community.

John has helped fill roles at several of our agency’s community events. He’s become an important team member on our police softball team for the last several years when we compete against the fire department. And we’ve had the opportunity to spend some valuable time with John and his friends each fall during the Light Up the Lake Parade when they help us decorate our float and walk in the parade.

One thing that many people may not know about John is that he’s an accomplished landscape photographer. He has true talent for photography and has taken some of the best photos of the Wayzata landscape that I’ve seen. You may have seen him walking around town during the early morning hours trying to catch the right light for that perfect picture.

Having family members who have been Special Olympics athletes and now getting the chance to participate with John, I encourage anyone, especially those in law enforcement, to reach out and connect with their local athletes! Developing relationships with Special Olympics athletes is of course a way to break down barriers, but it’s also a way to learn about inclusion, and that ultimately helps us serve our communities better.

Because John has invested so much in us, we wanted to return the favor and make him an Honorary Reserve Officer for the Wayzata Police Department. He’s agreed to continue to help us and help his community in any way he can. I’ve assured John that his role and responsibilities won’t change too much; he’ll just do it as one of our official department volunteers now.

John has been a great community steward, a very effective Special Olympics Law Enforcement Torch Run Ambassador and, more importantly, a good friend. With that, I’d like to welcome John Robards as our newest Honorary Reserve Officer.

Thank you, Chief Schultz, for sharing these kind words about John. And congratulations, John, on becoming an Honorary Reserve Officer! Learn more about the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Minnesota