Special Olympics - a family matter

Bank of America has been a partner and supporter of Special Olympics for over 30 years. For Dean Packard, the connection is a deeply personal one, woven into his family and his life.

Packard, a wealth advisor with Merrill Lynch, came to the Bank of America family through a predecessor company and has decades of experience working in finance.

His daughter Joelle was born with intellectual disabilities. When she was younger, he got involved with a Special Olympics Unified basketball team (comprised of players with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team) at his church. For Packard, programs like this help bring perspective.

“Joelle’s got a lot to offer the world,” he said. “These programs have made her feel like she’s not a second-class citizen … she’s a gift.”

The basketball program has grown tremendously since then. What once was a small group of inter-squad scrimmages is now an eight-team league with 80 athletes and 40 Unified partners. A yearly exhibition draws hundreds of people, and Joelle happened to score the winning basket in the last game Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver ever saw.

And Packard’s wife Darian started a Special Olympics unified cheerleading squad that attended the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles and plans on going to the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria. It’s not just about cheerleading as a sport in and of itself, but support for the other athletes. Packard and his family went to the World Games in Greece in 2011 for his 50th birthday and noticed the events weren’t getting the attendance he felt they deserved. So he was thrilled when the bank rallied employee volunteers to serve as “Fans in the Stands” to cheer on the athletes at the World Games in Los Angeles.

Packard’s three other children have become involved in Special Olympics as well, fierce advocates for their sister and others like her.

“It’s in their DNA,” he said.

Packard is helping to build a Disability Advocacy Network group for employees in Washington D.C. He’s proud to work for a company that has been such an ardent supporter of Special Olympics and the intellectual disability community.

He pointed to a term once used by Special Olympics Chairman Tim Shriver, the “dignity revolution.”

“The bank is such an avid partner in the dignity revolution, it’s fantastic,” he said. “It means my daughter has the same athletic opportunities that her typically developing siblings have … it’s been a big part of her world.”


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