Washington Close to Half a Million in Donations

Roy Hobbs Baseball

Washington All Stars
Photo courtesy of Tom VartanianThe Washington All-Stars presented a check for $21,000+ to Special Olympics in April 2017, part of their annual commitment to raise money for special athletics through their participation in the Roy Hobbs World Series. Included in the photo, from the left: Nicole Preston, CEO, Special Olympics DC; Tim Shriver, Chairman, Special Olympics Inc.; Mark Benz, Washington All Stars; Terrel Limerick, Special Olympics Athlete and Employee; Debbie Rizzo, Executive Assistant to Tom Vartanian; Tom Vartanian, Washington All Stars; Bobby Jones, Special Olympics Athlete and Employee; Mary Davis, CEO, Special Olympics Inc.; Shawn Ferguson, Senior Assistant and Special Advisor to the Chairman.

Tom Vartanian knows from many years asking the same question what the typical reaction is when he asks folks for donations to the Special Olympics.

“Where do I send the check?” said Vartanian, co-founder of the Washington All Stars, whose “teammate” affinity stretches way beyond the amateur baseball field.

For nearly 20 years the checks have been arriving, year after year, donation after donation. Since starting their campaign in 1998, the All Stars have raised about $450,000 for Special Olympics, by Vartanian’s estimate. Put another way, they’ll soon be closing in on a half a million dollars.

That’s a lot of good for a lot of athletes, and not just your typical shortstop or point guard or quarterback.  These “teammates” are special – special athletes.

“Our athletes are the grittiest athletes on Earth,” said Tim Shriver, the chairman of the International Board of Directors for the organization, which is in 172 countries.

Shriver knows what Vartanian and the All Stars have done for Special Olympics.

Check presentation reports and photos of the All Stars and Special Olympics are sprinkled through the Internet. In 2016, the All Stars donated $13,124.50 to Special Olympics.

A 2011 blog post from Special Olympics shows a check presentation photo of the two men standing on each end of one of those enormous ceremonial checks often seen at pro golf tournaments. Shriver and Vartanian are both beaming in the photo. The check that year was for $22,000.

Reading statistics, even those with dollar signs in front of them, tells only part of the story. Vartanian knows the rest of the story. He knows what the dollars mean to the special athletes in Special Olympics.

“If you ever see the looks on their faces it’s the most unbelievable thing in the world,” said Vartanian, who is a lawyer when not playing baseball.

Shriver knows the Special Olympics world and those looks very well. He joined Special Olympics in 1996. The organization runs in his blood. His mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founded Special Olympics.

He knows what the All Stars have meant for athletes in and around Washington, D.C.

“First of all, they make it possible to reach hundreds, thousands of athletes and bring them sports,” Shriver said.

He referred to the “gift of their treasure” when mentioning what the All Stars have done.

He’s seen the All Stars interact with athletes in Special Olympics and he noticed a kinship.

“It’s almost like they speak the same language,” Shriver said.

It’s the language of sports, one that inspires.

“Absolutely,” Shriver said. “I think there is inspiration on both sides and learning on both sides.”

The All Stars raise the money by asking friends and family to donate. They can donate, for example, by pledging a certain amount per run scored by the team or just giving a set amount.

Either way, the totals keep growing.

And it doesn’t take great sales skills to talk people into giving to Special Olympics.

“Special Olympics is a charity that sells itself,” Vartanian said.

And has for a very long time.