As a teenager, Linda Dellens learned compassion while volunteering for the Special Olympics.
“I remember so distinctly going to the Special Olympics events and seeing kids with bigger problems than my own,” Dellens says. “And yet they didn’t care. They were happy, joyful, friendly – not surly.”
The experience made a big impression.
“It was such a turning moment for me to realize what these athletes have,” Dellens says. “That was something I wanted to have.”
Now, as the events and promotions manager for Special Olympics Washington in Spokane, Dellens gets to share her zeal for the organization that changed the way she saw the world 30 years ago. The organization, which coordinates sporting events for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, recently opened an Eastern Washington office in Spokane.
“I want (people) to know about the Special Olympics,” Dellens says. “That is key to what I do.”
Dellens interviewed for the job in late June, moved from San Diego July 10 and started work July 16. She says she knows it sounds spontaneous, but she was ready for change.
Dellens had grown weary of Southern California’s rapid development. She had raised three daughters and sent them off to college and careers. She retired last October after 15 years as operations manager for the Zoological Society of San Diego, which runs the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park, and was teaching business writing and English part-time at a local college. But Dellens knew that wasn’t her next career.
“I noodled around with a lot of ideas,” she says. And then she decided. “I’m going to make a move.”
A friend Dellens had made on a trip to Mexico alerted her to the Special Olympics job in Spokane, and she applied.
“He said, ‘Isn’t this exactly what you do but without the animals?’ ” she says. “It truly was the Special Olympics that brought me here.”
“I love this city, and I’m not just saying that because this is going into the newspaper,” Dellens says. “There’s this small-town environment with all these wonderful resources.”
She rattled off several she finds appealing – universities, music, arts, parks. “That impresses me,” she says.
Dellens also enjoys hiking and skiing. “While it was the job that brought me here, knowing the outdoor opportunities here was very persuasive,” she says.
Dellens says she looked online for an apartment and found a charming one-bedroom in the city.
“I love the idea of urban living,” she says. “It’s near the park. I can walk to my office in the Fernwell Building. It’s close to downtown restaurants.”
Dellens says she knew one local person when she moved here last month but that quickly multiplied into several budding friendships. While networking is part of her job, she’s amazed by how often new acquaintances know the same people.
“It’s wonderful and a little scary,” she says. “It’s amusing and perfect for my job.”
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