Dennis Alldridge, Special Olympics Wisconsin
IB's Professional of the Week is the premier way to meet the state's professionals. This week features Dennis Alldridge, president/CEO of Special Olympics Wisconsin.
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Business Address: 2310 Crossroads Drive, Ste. 1000, Madison, WI 53718
Birthplace: Decatur, Ill.
Spouse/Partner’s Name: Beth
Organizations: National Association of Special Olympics Professionals
Education: B.S., Eastern Illinois University
Dennis, how long have you been with Special Olympics Wisconsin, and what is your day-to-day role in the organization?
I have been blessed to have served for 23 years as the president and CEO. I have always felt my role was to empower my co-workers to reach their goals and to provide them with the tools to be successful. Pretty simple, but it works.
Who has influenced your career the most, and in what way?
My inspiration has and always will be Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the founder of Special Olympics. She had such a profound impact on my life and the direction it has taken. Tireless service to others, especially people with intellectual disabilities. Service over self. I have been part of the Special Olympics movement since 1973 and have witnessed its transformative power.
You’ve been at this a long time, and have lots of memories of the service. What was a career high point?
Any time an athlete climbs on the award stand and receives a medal or ribbon, I can feel a little personal joy that I had a small role in that moment.
What is a long-range goal that you’d like to achieve before leaving Special Olympics?
To educate and inform the public of the scope of the services Special Olympics provides each and every day. Most will be amazed at what we do.
Have you always been interested in a career in social service?
I had a great high school experience and probably knew back then that some career in public service or a helping people industry was in my future.
Okay, going back that far, remember your very first paycheck? From where, how much, and what did you do with it?
It was as a “soda jerk” at Cooney’s Drive-In in Decatur, Ill. I’m not sure exactly how much it was or how I spent the first paycheck, but it probably involved a cheeseburger and orange freeze!
You mention Decatur, your hometown. What brought you to Madison?
This job came open and I had always loved it when my parents traveled to Wisconsin on vacation. I visited Madison in the early ’80s for a meeting and explored State Street. Pretty eye-opening for a small-town boy from Decatur!
What do you do outside work that brings you happiness or relaxation?
Beth also works for Special Olympics, but for Special Olympics, Inc. in D.C., with her office in our home. So we do have a chance to talk work quite a bit. It is a passion for both of us, so a good way to unwind. Spending time with Beth fulfills my happiness. Just the two of us … the best.
However, our home is on the lake and, in the summer, it’s overrun with kids, grandkids, their friends, and their friends, neighbors, cousins, nieces and nephews, and heaven knows – people I don’t even know! Relaxation? Not in the summer. My role is chief cook and bottle washer. And really, how many times in a day is it necessary to go tubing? And how many people will be coming to dinner? Whew! But we enjoy every moment of it and wouldn’t have it any other way.
Maybe it is just me, but my list of “things to do around the house” just gets bigger and bigger. Beth and I do like to share a dinner and good bottle of wine whenever we can.
Lately we have been playing a lot of golf together, which has been enjoyable. And we like to travel. We went to Seattle for the Packers/Seahawks game and met my sister and her husband from Alaska. And yes, it was as bad to see it in person.