Janet Froetscher is the New Captain of the Special Olympics Team

On October 21, her first day as CEO at Special Olympics headquarters in Washington, D.C., Janet Froetscher wore sneakers and shot basketballs, ran relays and competed with more than 100 new colleagues and Special Olympics athletes from Washington.

A Special Olympics-Style Welcome

On The Ball. Froetscher scored points for her team by hitting a target on the wall and getting the rebound. 

As chief executive officer, Froetscher will have full responsibility for leading the organization in fulfilling the mission and goals of Special Olympics worldwide. 

But first, she had to aim a basketball at a square target and grab the rebound to score points for her team. 

Froetscher joins Special Olympics at an exciting time for the movement for people with intellectual disabilities. Special Olympics has seen rapid growth and evolution in the past 10 years. Special Olympics is the leader in social inclusion through sports in more than 170 countries, and in fact, more than 75 percent of its 4.2 million athletes are outside the United States.

Joining the Team in D.C.

Good Morning! Before the athletic events of the day, Froetscher introduced herself to the approximately 100 employees at Special Olympics headquarters. Athletes and staff from Special Olympics District of Columbia were on hand to meet and compete with the new CEO.

Froetscher joined Special Olympics after successful years as president and CEO of the National Safety Council. Under her leadership, the NSC focused on issues such as workplace safety, distracted driving and teen driving. Before the NSC, Froetscher was CEO of the United Way of Metropolitan Chicago, where she led the merger of 54 United Ways into a single entity.

Dr. Timothy P. Shriver, who started with Special Olympics in 1996 as President and CEO and added the role of Chairman in 2003, will maintain his role as chairman of the Special Olympics board of directors. He will continue to be based at the Washington headquarters, and he will work with Froetscher and movement leaders around the world to help advance the ultimate goals of Special Olympics.

Dividing the Roles of Chairman and CEO

Chairman. Tim Shriver will continue to be based in Washington in his role as chairman of the board.

Shriver has held the chairman and CEO roles for eight years. With Froetscher now taking the CEO role, Shriver will be spending more time promoting the mission of Special Olympics through meetings with world leaders and top business executives. He'll visit and take part in Special Olympics activities worldwide, writing and speaking about his experiences for local and global audiences. As chairman, he will continue to lead the international board of directors while providing advice to CEO Froetscher.

Froetscher's new role is to lead the organization day-to-day. The CEO is responsible for budgeting, personnel, planning, implementation of initiatives and assessing progress. Fundamentally, the CEO is charged with fulfilling the mission of Special Olympics. 

"I am thrilled to welcome Janet," Shriver said. “I know Janet will embody our mission wholeheartedly."

At Work on the Court, Office and Online

Diving In. Froetscher, in black sweater, joined a weeklong series of meetings of the Special Olympics operating team. 

The week was packed with introductions for Froetscher. In addition to the employees at the D.C. headquarters, managing directors from each of the Special Olympics world region offices were in town for a weeklong series of presentations and discussions on global Special Olympics operational issues. All of the directors had joined Froetscher on that first morning of sport activities.

"I don't think there is a CEO who has received a warmer welcome," she said during lunch with staff and D.C. athletes the first day.

Froetscher also embraced her role as a voice of the Special Olympics movement with "Breaking Down Barriers and Changing Perceptions," which ran on the Huffington Post Oct. 21.

Unified From the Start

New Teammates. Froetscher posed with DC athletes Matthew Barksdale and Latisha Long.

In the gym, the 100-plus people were divided into teams that integrated people with and without intellectual disabilities. While the office workers from the headquarters struggled in some cases to hit the backboard with basketballs, several of the 15 athletes from Special Olympics District of Columbia hit shot after shot. 

"What a wonderful beginning to my journey with Special Olympics," Froetscher said. 

"It was a fun-filled day of activities with our athletes and other colleagues. Although I didn't meet the entire staff- I met quite a few! And, I had the chance to get on the court and shoot baskets and pass the baton on the shuttle run – it’s what our mission is all about: the joy of sports – and playing together."