Glenn Dixon’s first volunteer experience with Special Olympics Delaware was 30 years ago when he was a young state trooper, among more than 100 runners participating in the annual Law Enforcement for Special Olympics Torch Run. It’s a yearly ritual he continues to this day.
However, the next time Dixon carries the flame of hope, he will bear the title of Winnie Spence Torch Runner of the Year.
“I was totally surprised and so honored,” said Dixon, who retired in January as a captain with Delaware State Police. “It means so much to me, especially for what SODE represents. I’m fortunate to be a part of supporting the great athletes who represent the goodness in society and receive the support of so many throughout the community.”
The annual award is presented to a member of law enforcement who has made significant contributions as a LESO volunteer over an extended period of time.
Through the years Dixon has been involved with several LESO activities including the Delaware State Troopers Association Golf Tournament, soliciting ads for the summer games program, recruiting runners at the troops he commanded, organizing DSP headquarters’ torch run efforts, and volunteering at summer games.
“These events allowed me to see more of the behind-the-scenes work accomplished by SODE, the financial supporters and all of the volunteers,” Dixon said. “I began volunteering for the summer games giving out awards and that’s when I got hooked. It really closed the loop for me as to why all of these volunteer opportunities matter.”
In 2003, Dixon had his first opportunity to recruit officers into the movement when he took over as Troop 5 commander. Seeing the positive impact he had in that role persuaded him to seek out a larger volunteer recruitment role and when asked to serve on the Torch Run state committee, it was an easy decision.
“I jumped at the chance,” Dixon said. “The first statewide volunteer coordinator that I can remember was Chip Simpson. He inspired me to not only continue my solicitation efforts but reinforced the need and importance of volunteers during medal presentations at summer games and other events.”
Dixon took over the volunteer coordinator role when the organization was experiencing exponential growth which came with an even greater need for officers volunteering at events and, in some cases, as coaches.
“I was nervous at first,” he admitted. “The last thing that I wanted to happen was to not have any volunteers show up for an event. I also knew there were a tremendous number of events and roles that needed to be filled by volunteers, and I did not want to wear out my welcome with officers by asking law enforcement repeatedly for their assistance. I learned who the go-to people were who would always help out if possible and who I could count on to pinch-hit for an event.”
Dixon quickly realized that to meet the current and future needs, it was imperative for him to recruit rookie officers into the volunteer pool.
“I waited about six months for the recruits to be assigned to their respective agencies,” Dixon explained. “I then sent them all an email explaining to them what Special Olympics was about and the volunteer roles that law enforcement officers could play in the organization. The list of volunteers slowly grew with younger volunteers, which was much needed.”
Dixon also added a new step to the process by reaching out after an event to the chiefs and supervisors to let them know one of their officers volunteered.
“That inspired the volunteer list to grow even more,” he said. “Attaching pictures and a short paragraph explaining the event and the nice job by their officer interacting with the athletes and families truly made the event personal. The officers began thanking me for recognizing their efforts, and the chiefs appreciated seeing their officers in action. If a chief or head of agency volunteered, I would send the thank-you emails to the mayor and town council. This again proved to be well received.”
Dixon has expanded his own volunteer roles helping out at the Polar Bear Plunge, Run to the Plunge and the Bike Prologue. He jumped in the ocean as an official bear and rappelled 17 stories down the side of a building at the Over the Edge fundraiser. However, it’s still that first “hook” that excites him the most.
“My favorite memories are definitely presenting medals to the athletes,” he reaffirmed.
Dixon currently works at Sussex Tech High School as a driver’s education instructor and is on the school’s safety planning committee. Despite his retirement as a law enforcement officer, his commitment to his various roles supporting Special Olympics remains the same.
“I love sports and competition, so I also thoroughly enjoy the sporting action during events and seeing the smiles, tears of joy, and camaraderie that occurs among the athletes, families, and volunteers,” Dixon said.