When you ask Emily Riley about her path to becoming the 2013 Special Olympics North Carolina Local Coordinator of the Year, one thing becomes very clear: her belief that she was meant to do this.
“I was born to work for Special Olympics. I was sent down avenues throughout my life that prepared me for this position.”
Those avenues, which include teaching Special Education and working for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, provided Riley with the skills to become Special Olympics Cabarrus County’s local coordinator. However, she already had the passion.
“I worked with Special Olympics Orange County’s soccer program during college and was inspired by the work of Colleen Lanigan (Orange County’s local coordinator), but my passion really started when I was in high school. I volunteered for the Cabarrus County Spring Games and loved every minute of it. Oddly enough, they are the same ones that I coordinate now!” said Riley.
Riley’s job goes far beyond coordinating local games. She has grown the Cabarrus County program tremendously since taking over in 2010, adding three new sports (roller skating, Alpine skiing and flag football) to an already extensive offering. Additionally, the Young Athletes Program has grown significantly and fundraising has reached new heights in the county, thanks to new and innovative fundraisers started by Riley.
But what Riley is most proud of is bringing new athletes into the Special Olympics movement.
“Increasing the number of athletes we serve means more individuals from our community are feeling the impact of what we do. We are spreading inclusion, acceptance and unity through sports and it’s wonderful,” explained Riley.
“Emily’s enthusiasm and passion for Special Olympics has taken the Cabarrus County program to the next level,” said Keith Fishburne, President/CEO. “I know her dedication to the athletes is second to none and the program will continue to grow and lives will be impacted for the better because of her leadership.”
It is this commitment to excellence and passion to the core mission of Special Olympics that has set Riley apart from her peers, something that she recognizes to be quite an honor.
“It is a HUGE honor to be named Coordinator of the Year. There are so many great coordinators throughout the state who work extremely hard to make Special Olympics a reality in their communities and I feel lucky to be one of them. I absolutely love what I do and to be recognized for that is a great feeling.”
While Riley has accomplished much in her first three years, she is determined to accomplish even more in the future.
“We have done a lot of great things in Cabarrus County, but I know we can do so much more. I’d like to see a lot of areas beyond our sports program grow, including the Young Athletes Program. The sky is really the limit for Special Olympics Cabarrus County and I want to take it there!”
It is certain Riley will do just that. After all, she was meant to do this.