The Gillan family has been standing on the sidelines of Special Olympics events for many years. For their family, volunteering with Special Olympics North Carolina has been the foundation of building a “heart for service.’’ John and Ian serve on SONC’s Sport Development Team for soccer and Colleen serves on the swimming Sport Development Team.
All SONC Sport Development Teams are comprised of sports-knowledgeable volunteers who are committed to the philosophy and mission of Special Olympics and work hard to create quality sports programs based on these beliefs.
Combined, the Gillans have been volunteering with SONC for decades. Colleen has vast experience in both coaching and officiating for swimming and was originally encouraged to officiate for SONC by a friend. Their son, Ian, remembers his childhood years fondly on the sidelines of Special Olympics North Carolina competitions.
Ian grew up watching his mother, Colleen, who was recently selected to officiate at the 2020 Olympic trials, coach swimming for SONC. His father John was initially involved with swimming and then transitioned to the Sport Development Team for soccer. Ian grew up playing soccer and was encouraged by his parents to join the family in giving back to the community. He earned a degree in special education, motivated by his time volunteering with SONC.
“Special Olympics North Carolina means being part of something greater,” said Ian. “One word to describe my time volunteering with SONC is life-changing.”
The Gillans are rewarded by the sights of athletes grinning from ear to ear. John remembered one of his favorite moments from volunteering was receiving hugs from athletes after they completed their swim competition. Colleen also recalled a heartwarming moment with one of her swim athletes.
“I had to go talk to a coach and a parent,” said Colleen. “I was coming down the steps and I saw an athlete in tears, so I approached her and asked what was wrong. She turned and showed me her gold medal and said, ‘I had no idea I was winning.’ That’s the reason I do it.”
SONC athletes have gifted the Gillan family with a passion to help. John believes his family’s volunteer work with SONC has taught his son Ian to make volunteerism a priority.
“SONC has had a huge impact on our family,” said John. We have learned to give.”
The Gillans have given countless hours in volunteering with SONC and have been rewarded with unforgettable moments and connections with SONC athletes.