By Katrina Scalise Republican-American
NAUGATUCK — Borough native Michael Mason will become acting CEO of Special Olympics Connecticut effective Aug. 29, after serving as the organization’s chief financial officer and senior vice president for 20 years.
Mason has 40 years combined experience serving Special Olympics on local and national levels, working to provide sports training, insurance, and competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.
Mason has been involved in sports and volunteering for the organization, particularly in the Waterbury area, since he was 9 years old.
“I’ve always been an athlete, participated in college sports and I’ve enjoyed the relationships forged through athletics,” he said. “My cousin, Charlie, had Down syndrome so I grew up around the Special Olympics as a kid.”
He originally became a certified accountant after graduating, working at Ernst & Young as a tax manager before leaving to work with the Special Olympics again. Mason was a volleyball coach for the United States team at the 1991 Special Olympics World Games in St.Paul, Minn.
“When Special Olympics CT said they needed help, I thought they meant coaching, but they needed a businessperson, so I came along,” Mason said.
He then served on the organizing committee for the 1995 Special Olympics World Games in New Haven, an event that drew more than 7,000 participants from 143 countries.
Mason continued his involvement in the organization as CFO in October 2002. He also served on the national Special Olympics committees for marketing and finance.
The leadership change comes as Beau Doherty, the Special Olympics Connecticut president and CEO for nearly 30 years, is retiring.
“I am very happy that Mike Mason has been selected to take over the CEO role after I leave,” Doherty said in statement. “He has been a dedicated and effective staff person for so many years, and is committed to the mission of the organization. One added perk is he has an understanding of the global movement and its leaders.”
Mason said, “The biggest challenge now is to bring the organization back to where it was pre-COVID in terms of number of athletes, volunteers and programs.”
He also hopes to continue Special Olympics Connecticut’s collaboration with other states’ organizations on issues such as health insurance and risk management, as well as sports programs and events.
“In New England there’s a lot of collaboration,” he said. “We’re having the Unified Sports Fall Festival croquet competition in Westerly, R.I., with Special Olympics Rhode Island on Sept. 17 and 18.”
The organization aims to strengthen local programs and increase volunteer numbers over the next year or so.
“We’re working with (Police Athletic League) programs in urban areas across Connecticut,” Mason said. “We have a strong relationship with Waterbury PAL. Now we’re working in New Britain, Danbury, Bridgeport and Hartford.
“The new initiative I’m excited to be part of is our partnership with HomeField to provide online fitness for our athletes through live and recorded sessions. We had online support during COVID, and it’s an opportunity for our athletes to get a much richer experience.”
Special Olympics Connecticut has volunteering opportunities at the local level working with athletes, day-of-event help, coaching, fundraising, and at its office and warehouse.
“Whatever the person is interested in, they can get involved,” Mason said. “It takes an army of volunteers to run an event. Pre-COVID our events would have up to 2,500 athletes, and it would take 5,000 to 6,000 people to come out and make it happen.”
Those interested in volunteering can sign up at soct.org.