This is the third in a series of stories compiled by Special Olympics Missouri to highlight those people within the organization who are doing great things. The Special Olympics Missourian of the Month will highlight an athlete, coach, family or volunteer who the SOMO staff members believe embody what the mission is all about. This month, the Southwest Area has singled out coach Julie McCullick of El Dorado Springs as the December Special Olympics Missourian of the Month.
Usually when someone has made a name for themselves, or if their reputation precedes them, it’s typically because they have gone out of their way to make sure people notice them.
With Julie McCullick, it’s quite the opposite.
As a Special Olympics Missouri coach of more than 20 years, McCullick has gone out of her way to not be singled out for her hard work on behalf of all of her athletes. She keeps her head down and powers through without needing praise or validation to continue her pursuit of making sure her athletes receive the best support possible.
She does it all for the 25 athletes at her agency – Partners In Your Community.
And that’s exactly why she’s being honored as the Special Olympics Missourian of the Month for December.
“She does not always stand out because she just blends in and sometimes the best (like her) get overlooked because they just never need to be told to do things; they just do them,” said Robin Anderson, Southwest Area Development Director. “She is good because she cares. She rarely needs much assistance because she does it correct the first time.
“She has just always been a great coach and person and that can sometimes blend in.”
Whatever needs to be done
As owner of Partners In Your Community, McCullick works with individuals with intellectual disabilities to give them the proper assistance they need to live on their own.
Some of those individuals she assists with their living situation while at work also end up being some of her athletes.
According to her PIYC employees, she’s sees that the two go hand-in-hand and she’s equally dedicated to both.
“What I think separates Julie from other coaches is that she completely enjoys the entire experience,” said fellow SOMO coach and PIYC employee Julie Deckard. “She is the boss of Partners and would not have to go at all, but she chooses not only to go, but to take care of all of the work involved without ever complaining.”
“She is never demanding or critical (of the athletes). She makes it her goal to make sure each and every one of the athletes are having a good time.”
McCullick has never been afraid to go that extra mile if she knows that it will make even the smallest difference for her athletes – or any athlete for that matter.
“She will assist with the ramp, carry balls and shoes or bags not only for our clients, but for anyone who she sees is needing some help,” said SOMO coach and PIYC employee Paulette Fishburn.
“She is there when they receive their medals and takes pictures of them to give each athlete a copy. Julie encourages anyone who is not bowling well and will stay by them to talk through it.”
An example of McCullick’s commitment to doing whatever it takes for her athletes can be seen with one particular athlete whom Deckard said “absolutely loves to bowl,” but can sometimes lose control of himself.
On the trips to and from Special Olympics Missouri events, the athlete has had several accidents, so others suggested maybe he should only go to the events close to home. McCullick doesn’t want to hear any of that.
“Julie has a very nice, pretty new truck and she puts him in her truck each time. We have had to stop several times to clean up her truck, clean the athlete and change his clothes, but she doesn’t bat an eye, she just jumps in and gets it taken care of and off we go,” Deckard said.
“I have never once seen her ask anyone else to do this. … I think that is pretty amazing, especially since she is the owner and boss of the company and wouldn’t have to ever be hands on.”
Best of the best
If Marguerite Goodwin could have it her way, she’d want every coach to be exactly like McCullick.
Goodwin’s son, Paul, 53, has been involved with SOMO since the beginning in 1971 and has been through her fair share of coaches over the year, but according to her, McCullick is the best.
“She’s just generally a very caring person and she’s real patient to try to understand and deal with not only difficult athletes, but parents as well,” Goodwin said. “She wants the events to, above anything else, be cheerful.”
McCullick takes the time to really teach the athletes and make sure they improve in every facet of their lives.
“It amazes me when they go up to bowl and the improvement the participants have made. She’s always very encouraging even if they think they can’t do it, she talks them into it,” Goodwin said. “She’s very outgoing, but not pushy. She just watches them and certainly helps them when she thinks some improvements could be made.
“Julie is absolutely amazing.”
She is who she is
According to the people closest to McCullick, it sounds like she really is everything she preaches.
“She always has a smile on her face,” Fishburn said. “She has many things planned to do with the athletes even when they aren’t (competing).”
It’s the fun-loving part of her personality that allows her to truly enjoy every aspect of coaching in Special Olympics.
“Julie is just a friendly, upbeat and caring person,” Deckard said. “She doesn’t ever hold herself above anyone else – athlete or staff.”
Most people change over time, but Deckard, who has known McCullick for 30 years and worked for her for more than eight, said she doesn’t believe McCullick has changed “at all.”
“She is the same person every time you see her. She has a big heart and is always keeping her staff’s and her clients’ welfare and safety in mind,” Deckard said. “She makes sure everyone is comfortable and having a great time.”
After 20 years of coaching bowling, basketball and track and field, McCullick said she most enjoys watching the athletes’ pride come through both on the field of competition and on the medal stands.
“I started coaching because no one in our small town was a coach and we had several athletes who wanted to get involved,” McCullick said.
“What keeps me involved is the athletes depend on me, and I don’t want to let them down.”