Special Olympics South Dakota gave Watertown’s Justin Elliott the adventure of a lifetime.
The downhill skier took home gold and silver metals in the Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria this past March. Elliott described his experience as life changing. And while only a select few Special Olympians will share Elliott’s experience, Special Olympics South Dakota’s work is nothing short of gold-medal worthy at every level.
Special Olympics aims to improve the overall health of the state’s disabled population through opportunities in sports. But we’re talking about more than just physical health. Special Olympics provides very important social opportunities to the disabled, giving them a venue for social interaction with peers as well as those without disabilities. “In our business, acceptance and inclusion in society is huge,” CEO Darryl Nordquist says.
Nordquist has been working with South Dakota Special Olympics for almost 10 years, six of those as CEO.
In fact, he wept tears as he listened to Elliott speak of his medal-winning experience at the World Winter Games upon his return from Europe. He said the breadth of opportunities his organization offers the disabled community often moves him this deeply, World Winter Games or not. “When you see what Justin got to experience, you see only his success—it is amazing,” Nordquist says. “It takes philanthropy to make that happen. We have such a wonderful, generous community that supports Special Olympics South Dakota. It’s those supporters who make this happen.”
One of Special Olympics South Dakota’s greatest allies is the South Dakota Community Foundation (SDCF), whose challenge grants helped the organization pull itself out of the red several years back. Special Olympics utilizes these same grants today to chase dreams and expand programming. “I’ve learned so much from SDCF on how to grow, on capacity building, and all those sorts of things,” Nordquist says. “The education they provide is badly needed for leaders of nonprofits. We are lucky to have them spreading good—and knowledge—throughout our state.”