Al Wywialowski of Batavia started as a spectator at Special Olympics Illinois. He watched his son, Alan, participate in athletics, bowling and basketball through School District U-46. This led Wywialowski to start officiating volleyball games at Special Olympics Illinois. Recently, he volunteered at Fall Games in Rockford on Oct. 24 and 25.
“On several occasions, the participants have come up to me and thanked me for volunteering my time,” Wywialowski said. “I get a very uplifting feeling when that happens.”
Wywialowski is a certified Illinois High School Association official. He umpires at IHSA baseball games as well as officiating at IHSA volleyball games. What started as a way to earn some extra money turned into a way to give back.
“I started doing Special Olympics volleyball because I wanted to give back to Special Olympics what Special Olympics was giving Alan– a chance to compete with other kids with special needs,” said Wywialowski.
“The biggest difference I see in officiating IHSA games and Special Olympics games is the focus,” Wywialowski said. “In officiating IHSA games, the focus is on good sportsmanship and winning the contest. In the Special Olympics games, sure the focus is on good sportsmanship, but it is also about doing your best and having fun.”
During Fall Games, Wywialowski got the chance to work with other IHSA officials and the chance to spend time with his 19-year-old son, Alan, who volunteered as a volleyball scorekeeper.
Alan is the oldest of three sons two of whom, Alan and Bradley, are on the autism spectrum. Wywialowski’s middle son,
Billy, is 17 and volunteers at Special Camp, a week-long camp for kids and adults with disabilities held at White Pines Dude Ranch in Oregon, Ill. Bradley is 15 and attends PACTT Learning Center in Chicago.
Wywialowski said the real reason he officiates games is “I really enjoy being part of the game. I take it for granted. It’s not an easy job. It can be very challenging at times. I like making the right calls, seeing a pitch come in or where a ball lands on the line. That’s why I do it. It’s not about me or the money; it’s about being part of the game.”
Wywialowski is a spectator turned volunteer. Whether he is officiating for IHSA or Special Olympics, Wywialowski enjoys his job and the time he gets to spend with Alan.
By Allison Keck, Communications Intern