Volunteer Spotlight:

IRWIN HERTZ
Peace Corps and Special Olympics Together

 
In what may be the beginning of a unique new form of cooperation between Special Olympics and Peace Corps of the United States, Special Olympics would like to welcome the newest member of its National Program team in Lithuania, Irwin Hertz, a Peace Corps volunteer in small business development.

Hertz is far from most people's
perception of the traditional Peace Corps volunteer. Born 8 November 1925 in the hard coal mining town of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, U.S.A., Hertz's first international experience came during World War II, when he volunteered for
and served as a machine gunner in the U.S. Infantry 89th Division. Hertz received a Combat Infantryman Badge, Certificate of Merit for Bravery, and two Battle Stars, while stationed near Linz, Austria. After completing his military service, Hertz led
a successful career in food distribution, serving as President and CEO of Royal Swan Foods.

But when he retired after 38 years, he
was not the most "retiring" retiree. Hertz wanted to continue to make an impact,
so he applied to the Peace Corps and

 

A growing bond. Irwin Hertz, Peace Corps volunteer and director of funding for Special Olympics Lithuania, plants a tree in honor of friendship between the United States and Lithuania.

was accepted. He was sent to Poland and Chile as a small business development volunteer. Most recently, he has been placed with Special Olympics Lithuania and appointed director of funding by Algirdas Vitkauskas, Special Olympics Lithuania's president and national director.

Hertz is already making a substantial impact. Since arriving, he has set up an advisory board comprised of a group of small business development Peace Corps volunteers interested in helping out Special Olympics Lithuania. Each member has been chosen according to his or her expertise and previous experience such as marketing, public relations, volunteerism, and fund raising. Additionally, a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) volunteer will teach English to Special Olympics Lithuania regional directors.

In October 1997, Special Olympics Lithuania held "A Very Special Olympics Festival,"
which included cross-country races, arts and crafts exhibits, folk dancing, and concerts, and dramatic presentations performed by persons with mental retardation of all ages. Hertz recruited 20 Peace Corps volunteers to help out with the festivities. There were more than 500 participants and 1,000 spectators. The event included a tree planting ceremony in honor of the "Friendship Between the United States of America and Lithuania." Hertz says he got his feet wet in fund raising at this event by acquiring great cooperation from Coca-Cola of Lithuania, which contributed 30 prizes and supplied free Coca-Cola for everyone. He later scheduled a meeting with the marketing director of Coca-Cola Lithuania in order to plan events for the coming year.

 

The seeds of friendship. More than 1,500 participants and spectators attended the "A Very Special Olympics Festival" and tree planting.

 

Special Olympics Regional Advisor for Central Europe, Mariusz Damentko, invited Hertz
to Warsaw in November to meet with Boguslaw Galazka, national director of Special Olympics Poland and Colonel Jacek Hachulski, Torch Run coordinator for Central Europe, in order to help organize the Regional Baltic Fund Raising and Torch Run Seminar to be held in April of 1998.

Also in November, Hertz made a presentation at a Peace Corps All-Volunteers Conference to Peace Corps volunteers from Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia to "explain the values of a Peace Corps volunteer cooperating with the Special Olympics Committee of their respective country."

The Lithuania Peace Corps volunteers whom Hertz recruited, led by Tara Brabazon, advisory committee public relations manager, organized a December event called "A
Very Special Christmas," hosted by Special Olympics Lithuania and Friends and Family
of Peace Corps. The special guests of this event were orphan children living at special schools for the disabled, and children with disabilities or children of parents with disabilities. The festivities included Christmas carols, refreshments, and the distribution
of presents to the children. Most of the funds for the event were donated by the friends
and families in the United States of current Peace Corps volunteers in Lithuania. A variety of other charitable organizations throughout the country also received presents for distribution. All told, approximately 450 Lithuanian children benefited from the funds raised.

It is easy to see why Special Olympics is so excited to have Hertz working with them! There are great expectations for things to come in his scheduled two years with Special Olympics Lithuania. Special Olympics hopes to be able to count on more assistance from Peace Corps in the future, in the area of business development, for other national Programs that stand to benefit greatly from the knowledge, experience, and commitment of someone like Hertz. Many thanks to Algirdas Vitkauskas for having the foresight and persistence in requesting business support from Peace Corps, and for hopefully opening the door to greater ties between Special Olympics and Peace Corps, in a mutually beneficial relationship!

If you know of any other experiences that a Special Olympics Program has had with Peace Corps volunteers or returned Peace Corps volunteers, please contact:

Steve Sullivan at Special Olympics International by mail,
202.628.3630, or by e-mail: steve-sullivan@juno.com.