Longtime volunteer, staff member, and current President/CEO Michael Furnish recently submitted his resignation, effective Dec. 31 2017, to the Special Olympics Indiana Board of Directors. Furnish started as a volunteer for Special Olympics in 1973, and was hired to work for the organization in 1990 when the State Office moved to Indianapolis. He has served as the President and CEO since 2007, and recently served a 3-year term as chair of the United States Leadership Council.
During his tenure:
- The organization has served an estimated 40,000 individuals with intellectual disabilities, with a current athlete participation rate approaching 14,000 athletes.
- The organization moved to centralized financial management – improving accountability, efficiency, coordination of resources toward organizational goals, and the establishment of an endowment.
- The annual Polar Plunge has grown from revenues of $25,000 to nearly $800,000.
- Special Olympics Indiana has been recognized nationally for program innovation –including starting flag football, ballroom dance, Unified Sports®, and online volunteer registration.
- A partnership with the Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) known as Champions Together has become a national model for involvement of Special Olympics athletes in interscholastic sports, with over half the high schools in Indiana involved. A similar program targeting pre-school, elementary school, and middle school students is also growing rapidly.
- Special Olympics Indiana is well on its way to being recognized as a Healthy Community by the global Special Olympics office for its programs dedicated to free health screening, follow-up care, athlete and caregiver training, medical professional education, and unified fitness clubs.
Mike’s decision to step down as President is strengthened by the capability of an outstanding board, staff, and volunteer leaders who share an unwavering commitment to continuing the amazing work of Special Olympics Indiana. “There has never been a time in our history that I have been more optimistic about the possibilities and the future,” Mike said. “The organization is thriving, as we continue to expand our sports program, support exponential growth in schools, bring athletes up as leaders, and dedicate ourselves to the health and fitness of athletes.”
During his last six months in this position, Mike’s focus will be to sustain current efforts to keep Indiana’s program the best anywhere, and to collaborate with the Board of Directors to identify the next leader and ensure a smooth transition. Once complete, Mike plans to explore ways to stay involved in Special Olympics that might benefit from his undiminished passion for the cause. “I’m so proud of our organization, and am forever indebted to each volunteer and donor for the goodness you bring to this world through Special Olympics,” adds Mike.
A committee appointed by the Special Olympics Indiana Board of Directors will conduct an extensive national search for the next President over the next few months.