Hero Spotlight: Kathy Webb
Kathy Webb (Director, Employee Community Engagement, Social & Community Impact for Nike) created this incredible opportunity 14 years ago and it’s never become wash, rinse, repeat. “Kathy’s leadership and commitment to the Special Olympics Oregon Youth Games is legendary,” said Caitlin Morris (VP Social & Community Impact for Nike). “She’s been at the helm of the Youth Games since it began in 2007 and brings so much heart and innovation to what’s become one of the most beloved employee volunteer events at Nike WHQ and an unforgettable first-time sport and play experience for SOOR kids.”
Jorge Casimiro (Chief Public Policy & Social Impact Officer for Nike) shared, “For Kathy, it has always been about the young people and the benefits sport and play bring them. As such, Kathy expects excellence from everyone who plays a role in Youth Games, and she looks to raise the achievement bar each year because we all believe the participants deserve the very best that Nike, our teammates, and the community have to offer.”
When asked about the impact Kathy has had on Special Olympics Oregon athletes, Britt Oase (Chief Executive Officer, SOOR) asked how many pages the story would be? “While it is her preference to stay behind the scenes, make no mistake – Kathy is the heart and soul of this event. She makes magic happen. We’ve had an impressive line-up of Nike athletes attend Youth Games, each year, including: Sarah Reinertsen, Ironman Triathlete, and Paralympian; Misty May-Treanor, three-time Olympic Gold Medalist beach volleyball player; Galen Rupp, three-time Olympian, and two-time Olympic Medalist distance runner; Mariel Zagunis, two-time Olympic Gold Medalist and Bronze Medalist fencer; Marlen Esparza, Olympic Bronze Medalist Boxer; and Laurie Hernandez, U.S. Women’s Gymnastics team member, and Olympic Gold and Silver Medalist. The athletes make the kids feel so important and they add a wow factor that we only achieve because we are in Nike’s backyard.” Britt went on to share that “what impresses our staff the most is the support we receive from Nike employees. Kathy is so well-respected on campus and has built such a tremendous experience that the 500+ volunteer opportunities available exclusively to Nike employees fill up in less than an hour after they are launched.”
Many of those Nike employees fall in love with Special Olympics through this event and continue their volunteer work with SOOR as Unified partners, coaches, volunteers with the local community programs, and by serving on SOOR’s Board of Directors and Young Professionals Council. Kerry Sobol, (VP, Global Partnership Transformation for Nike, and Special Olympics Board member) smiled when she recalled her first Youth Games and the joy she had when she was able to run side-by-side with one of the participants, cheering him along to the finish line. “I was hooked. When I was approached about joining the Board, I jumped at the chance and have loved working with the staff, other Board members, and with Kathy, to be another liaison for the incredible relationship between Nike and Special Olympics Oregon.”
Kathy is an advocate and a champion for Special Olympics Oregon in more ways than Youth Games. She loves the inclusive work in the Special Olympics Oregon Unified Champion Schools program and has even found Special Olympics athlete leaders to speak in front of employees. Patrice Thramer (Senior Director of Global Employee Community Engagement for Nike) shared that: “Kathy has been with Nike for over 40 years, and in those years, she’s never ever lost sight of how important it is for everyone to enjoy physical activity and sport. She embodies the best of Nike in all aspects of her work.”
Kathy – from your Special Olympics Oregon family: You make the world a better place, certainly for our athletes. Because of your humble nature, most of them will never know the name of the woman (who has a contagious smile) responsible for introducing them to sport, being a catalyst for friendships, and creating an opportunity for them to live a healthier life. For those of us who have the pleasure and honor of working with you, we want to thank you for being such a force of good and a delight to work and play with.