CHARLOTTE – Mike Reese is more than an engineer. He has a passion for serving and he caught the bug to volunteer at the Special Olympics 24 years ago.
Reese was recruited in 1998 when some fellow coworkers were working to manage transportation for the 1999 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Raleigh.
“After the World Games, I was asked to help out with transportation management for several state-level events, and I’ve been involved ever since,” said Reese, a western regional engineer for the N.C. Department of Transportation’s Congestion Management Unit.
After being involved with several events and witnessing how the Special Olympics cares for individuals with intellectual disabilities – along with their families – Reese has remained committed to the organization. He continues to serve as director of transportation for the annual Summer Games in Raleigh and the annual Fall Tournament in Charlotte, and as a skiing coach for the state and southeast regional Winter Games in Blowing Rock.
The volunteerism has been contagious among his peers. Several NCDOT employees in the local highway division, including Traffic Engineer Zach Gardner, have offered their spare time to give back to the community.
“A fellow employee in my unit has a sibling that participated as an athlete for years, and he described the positive impact it had,” Gardner said. “I wanted to help out in any way I could.”
Even better – both say their job experience comes in handy.
“I was able to use my background as Division Traffic Engineer to assist in creating and implementing a traffic control plan for ingress, parking, and egress for all vehicles and vans for each athlete, their families, coaches and spectators,” Gardner said.
As a co-instructor of the state access management classes for over 15 years, Reese agrees.
“Myself and fellow transportation managers use key traffic engineering principles from our ‘day jobs’ to help enhance the safety, efficiency, and experience of the athletes, families, and all Special Olympics patrons,” he said.
Both highly recommend volunteering.
“I would highly recommend it,” Gardner said. “It’s very fulfilling. The smiles on the athletes’ faces makes it completely worth it.”