LouAnne Tabada – 25 Years of Service to SOOR
What a year 1996 was: Major League Soccer had its first season, Prince Charles and Diana divorced, the Summer Olympics were held in Atlanta, Dolly the sheep was cloned, Ebay was started…and LouAnne Tabada began her career with Special Olympics Oregon (SOOR). In 2022, SOOR will turn 50 years old and LouAnne has been an integral part of its story for half of those years.
LouAnne graduated from Roseburg High School and after college, spent time working in Minnesota, Saudi Arabia, and Hawaii. In 1996, she accepted a job as the Area Director for Special Olympics Oregon Washington County supporting local programming and fundraising efforts. In the 25 years since, she has held various positions and currently serves as the Senior Director of Program & Volunteer Services, working directly with Local Programs while also taking the lead role for volunteer recruitment and management within the organization. “I truly care about everyone”, shared Tabada. “Our athletes are amazing! They are just themselves – always. There’s no pretense. They are open, honest, and share everything about themselves. I love that – I’m like that, too! I’m smiling just thinking about them.” It’s no surprise the athletes feel the same way about Lou, with Dominic Flesey-Assad (Multnomah County Local Program athlete) saying that he enjoyed seeing LouAnne when he would come to the SOOR office for his internship. “You were fun to work with and be around, and you’re really funny. I love seeing you at State Games and other events. I’m happy I got to work with you.” Rachel Parsons (also from Multnomah County) added, “thank you for everything you do for SOOR, LouAnne. We appreciate you.” Jenny Hill (Marion County Local Program athlete) said that “I think you are amazing at everything you do for SOOR, LouAnne – thank you!”
Over the past two and a half decades, in addition to LouAnne’s work with athletes, she has played a critical role with their families, supporters, and volunteers. She has been directly involved in organizing tens of thousands of volunteers for hundreds of competitions, special events, and fundraisers. “Our volunteers make it happen. They instantly connect with our athletes and are so dedicated to make sure that the sports happen. Volunteers and athletes together are just a joy. You can see how they light up each other’s worlds – and the local programs are where the deepest connections are made with athletes, families, and volunteers. When I first started with SOOR, I got to be immersed in just one program – Washington County. It was so amazing! We were a family. As we changed our program model and I interacted with more Local Programs and my perspective broadened, but everywhere I went the commitment, the joy, and the SOOR family was present in every single community. Truly fabulous! SOOR has always been focused on the athletes – and that’s the most important thing!”
Just like the athletes, the volunteers love Lou as much as she loves them. Marie Cabler with the Jackson County Local Program called Lou’s service “remarkable”. Sabin Johnson (veteran coach and volunteer in the Multnomah County Local Program, along with his husband Jordan Phillips) refers to Lou as “Twinkle Toes” and said that she is “an amazing human being and the work she has done for SOOR over the years, always behind the scenes, has been tremendous.” Ted and Kristi Barker with the Eugene-Springfield Local Program said that Lou has “always been a firm supporter of the Local Program people and we’ve all had a great time working with her. All you had to do was listen for her laugh and you knew where to find her. She’s a great asset to Special Olympics Oregon.” Debbie Pederson who hosts Chair Yoga on SOOR Active said that she was so grateful LouAnne came to her work to promote SOOR. “She inspired me to be a volunteer and is a treasured gift to SOOR – the athletes love and appreciate her.”
Former SOOR employee and longtime Super Plunge captain, Cathy Gidley, said that “whenever Lou was in the office, everyone knew. You could hear her from the parking lot. She was a highlight of my time at SOOR – love me some Lou!” Caitlin Buyserie continued with a similar sentiment, “Lou is an amazing friend, co-worker, supervisor, cheerleader, and second mama bear to me and has been for over 10 years. I am so thankful that my path crossed with hers when I found SOOR. We’ve shared so many memories, laughs, tears, late nights, and early mornings – I’ll always cherish those. She is simply one of the most fabulous humans I know and you give the very best hugs.” Cindy Miguel said that “it is an honor to have known LouAnne through all of the sunny and stormy weather over 25 years! Lou is caring, compassionate, devoted, encouraging, with just the right dose of sassiness. I love her singing, chatty nature, and endless ways she finds to make everyone feel seen, heard, valued, and loved.” Joe Harvey said it was difficult to put into words how much LouAnne means to our athletes, volunteers, community, and staff. “She is the heart, soul, and voice (loud voice, to be precise) of this organization.”
A quarter of a century is an incredible milestone that few people reach with one company or organization. The memories LouAnne has made for others and those she treasures for herself are endless. “Every time I’m with the athletes, it’s great. When I’m at a training, competition, or event and see the interactions, joy, commitment – it’s just great. The friendships I’ve developed with athletes, volunteers, families, and staff are priceless! They are friends and family to me“, said Lou. SOOR’s Chief Operating Officer, Mark Hanken, said that “after 25 years, she still brings her booming voice, her unique talents, her boundless energy, and unwavering passion to work every day.”
You are a cherished colleague, champion for the athletes and volunteers, proud Mom to 3 sons, and “Lola” to your grandbabies we hear so much about. We love and appreciate you – and fully expect to keep you with SOOR for the next 25 years.