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Case Studies: Special Olympics Maryland, Prince George's County

Special Olympics Maryland, Prince George's County

Every day, Special Olympics Maryland, Prince George's County (SOMDPG) puts its mission into action, providing athletes with disabilities the opportunity to develop physical fitness and build relationships with family, friends, fellow athletes and the community. In the process, the athletes are also able to achieve another part of the organization's mission: demonstrating courage and experiencing joy. SOMDPG is a non-profit organization run under Special Olympics Maryland (SOMD). Statewide, SOMD serves more than 6,500 athletes with intellectual disabilities.

"Training and competitions are provided at no cost to the athletes or their families, other than the need to get the athletes to practice," says Karen Reznek, IT Support, whose daughter Abby is autistic and a SOMDPG Aquatics Team member, who won gold, silver and bronze medals at the summer 2015 Special Olympics World Games.

Guided by the core values of community, friendships, integrity, opportunity, quality and sportsmanship, SOMDPG's athletes work with an all-volunteer coaching staff in the following sports:

  • Aquatics
  • SOMDPG Aquatics
  • Athletics
  • Basketball
  • Bocce
  • Bowling
  • Cycling
  • Soccer (Football)
  • Golf
  • Motor Activity Training Program
  • Powerlifting
  • Softball
  • Unified Sports

Improved Communication: A Team Effort

In January of 2012, SOMDPG determined it needed to boost its communication by finding an efficient way to:

  • Get specific teams' training and competition information to their respective athletes and athletes' families quickly and easily.
  • Send information to athletes across all teams and to staff with multiple roles, without burdening people with duplicate messages.

SOMDPG started using L-Soft's ListPlex – LISTSERV® in the Cloud – email list hosting service.

"Some people prefer to communicate via social media. But LISTSERV lists are much better for our purposes. People might discuss some general things on social media, but for sticky issues that require some semblance of privacy, LISTSERV is the first choice."

"After finally tracking down SOMDPG and seeing how much Abby benefited from her involvement, I made it a goal that other families would not have such a difficult time getting involved. To that end, I joined the management team and set up email lists for the teams Abby was involved with," Reznek says. "Later, with another generous donation from L-Soft, I was able to set up lists for all of the teams under a master SOMDPG list. This enables coaches to communicate easily with their teams, athletes and their families to receive information about the sports they are interested in. It also makes it very easy for SOMDPG to send out announcements to all teams with a single message, and no subscriber receives more than one copy."

"I already had experience running the ICORS lists using LISTSERV and was frustrated by how much more difficult it was to run the SOMDPG lists under different platforms. When it was suggested that I apply for a donation of LISTSERV, I jumped at the opportunity because of the ease of use, control over the lists and the ability to have a master list and sub-lists," Reznek describes, adding: "My experience with L-Soft has been excellent. Customer support is top notch, and LISTSERV is a pleasure to use."

The SOMDPG lists are primarily all-team communication lists, with the majority of information centering around practice schedules and overall information about the organization. Reznek notes: "It is much easier to send out announcements to all of our team members. Formerly, this information had to be sent to coaches, who might or might not pass it on to their teams."

"I subscribe to the team email lists. It helps with the communications for the Special Olympics teams that I am on," Abby Reznek adds.

"Some people prefer to communicate via social media. But LISTSERV lists are much better for our purposes. People might discuss some general things on social media, but for sticky issues that require some semblance of privacy, LISTSERV is the first choice," Reznek notes. "For team communications, a feed that might not show every post is pretty useless when families need to know that practice has been canceled, or another last-minute issue needs to be known. Reliable email is the way to go for that."

Winning Results: Competition, Community, Communication

For organizations facing similar communication challenges, Karen's recommendation is: "Be prepared to do some hand-holding with staff who aren't familiar with email lists. Show them how much easier it is to use lists where they only have to send to one address and no longer have to manually maintain lists, for example, of their team members."

Special Olympics World Games

Reflecting on Abby's involvement with SOMDPG, Karen describes: "The volunteers have been very supportive of Abby's involvement in Special Olympics. From the amazing coaches who have pushed her to succeed and the management team members who have cheered her on, we have had nothing but positive experiences. Abby has also had good experiences with the staff at SOMD, who have trained her to become a beginning Global Messenger, so she could speak about Special Olympics in more formal settings. They spent quite a bit of time with her during various events to send the six Maryland athletes off to the World Games. Not to mention, there are all of the wonderful friends we have made through Special Olympics, who cheered Abby on at the Worlds."

"As a list owner, I am thrilled with the opportunity to make participation in Special Olympics as easy as possible for the coaches, athletes and families," Reznek says. "Now reaching everyone, or reaching only one group, is simple. Coaches no longer have to keep and update lists of email addresses. Participants can now update their contact information themselves, and only one address has to be remembered to communicate with a team. We plan to continue using the hosted LISTSERV lists as long as we have sports teams. Eventually, we hope to open this up to other Special Olympics programs in the state.

To learn more about Special Olympics Maryland, Prince George's County, visit:
http://www.somd.org/prince-georges-county

Case study written in November 2015 with the help of Karen Reznek, IT Support, Special Olympics Maryland, Prince George's County.




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