Ten or 12 years ago (he can’t remember exactly when), Mike Donathan agreed to help out a friend who worked with Virginia Special Olympics and volunteered at the Richmond Corporate Games. He said he didn’t really know what he was getting into, but he said yes anyway.
That was a decision he continues to be grateful for today.
“My friend moved to D.C. and Roy Zeidman (Va. Special Olympics) asked me if I’d like to continue and head up the volunteers. His volunteer job for the past 10-12 years includes: coordinating the events, helping with the rules and games and explaining the events to the teams.
“I coordinate and head the volunteer referees and help coordinate the events throughout the weekend. We want to ensure we have the right folks at the right place, setting up the events and answering questions the day of the Games and make sure we are sticking to the schedule,” Mike said.
With a record 33 teams competing in this year’s Games, Mike has quite a job.
Says Tom O’Grady, chair of the Innsbrook Foundation’s Recreation Committee, “Mike Donathan has the worst job of anyone involved in the Richmond Corporate Games. He is the only person out there who never gets a break, who everyone wants to complain to or yell at, and who has to cajole all his volunteers to be perfect. And, he does all these things extremely well, and without ever complaining.
“He is probably the one indispensible person for the Games. All I know is, when Mike leaves, you can stamp my ticket gone as well.”
That says alot about Donathan, since O’Grady has chaired (for more than 15 years) the Foundation’s Recreation Committee which runs the Games -- a huge annual Innsbrook event.
“Mike Donathan has the worst job of anyone involved in the Richmond Corporate Games. He is the only person out there who never gets a break, who everyone wants to complain to or yell at, and who has to cajole all his volunteers to be perfect. And, he does all these things extremely well, and without ever complaining. “He is probably the one indispensible person for the Games. All I know is, when Mike leaves, you can stamp my ticket gone as well.” -- Tom O’Grady, chair of the Innsbrook Foundation’s Recreation Committee
Donathan says the Games has doubled in size from when he first started volunteering. In the beginning, there were eight or nine of us who volunteered, he said. Now, I don’t think we can do it with less than 15 - 18 volunteers.
“It’s entertaining to watch your corporate peers go out and compete against each other and some of it’s fairly entertaining,” he says. But, “the biggest reason I do it is because it benefits Special Olympics; all the money goes directly back to the athletes and that’s a tangible, satisfying result at the end of the Games.
“I know the organization (Va. Special Olympics) through volunteering and I’ve always enjoyed helping kids and even adults who might not get the same chance that other people get. “By helping this organization, you’re allowing someone to do something that they ordinarily wouldn’t be able to do,” Donathan said.
“At the end of the day, it’s for a very good cause.”
He says his favorite event would be the Zany Relay -- “it’s the most entertaining event of the day because there’s so much going on and the interaction between the teams and emcees is just funny.”
Donathan says the Corporate Games Committee is already planning next year’s Games. At their last meeting, he said the majority of the feedback from the teams was positive. While some of the new games may be tweaked for next year, some of the popular mainstays will continue -- including the most popular tug-of-war.
Donathan grew up in Chester and went to Thomas Dale before attending Emory & Henry College. He says he loves living in Richmond -- “it’s a great balance; I like the weather and the location.”
“There are alot of people who put in alot of hours on the Richmond Corporate Games -- alot more hours than I do and I would like to thank them. And, it’s a tribute that they can put on events like this and give back to the folks that need it.
“The Innsbrook Foundation and the Virginia Special Olympics do such a fantastic job that, in my mind, one person could disappear and they’re going to keep things going.”
Well, not according to Tom O’Grady.