Sports were everything to Gary Hettich.
Born with Down syndrome in 1967, Gary’s parents, Linda and Dennis, never considered “sending him away” as some professionals encouraged.
“Gary never felt he was different,” said Linda. “From a very young age, the community embraced him.”
Starting in the 3rd grade, Gary began competing in Special Olympics. Swimming, softball and basketball were his favorites.
Special Olympics event were a family affair. Dennis coached softball for 30 years and the Hettichs grew close to other families who had loved ones participating.
“Special Olympics was not just for Gary,” said Linda. “It was family. We made lifelong friends. I don’t know what we would have done without it.”
Their connection to other families only grew when Gary began receiving services from Black Hills Works. Through Black Hills Works, they also met Bill Clucas who was a great part of Gary’s life, and instrumental in many people’s lives, shared Linda.
When Gary passed away in 2020, Dennis and Linda knew the best way to honor his memory was to establish a memorial fund to help athletes without the resources to participate – many of whom were Gary’s friends.
When Dennis passed away a year later, Linda was able to also honor Dennis’ memory with gifts to their Special Olympics memorial fund. Linda knew that was what he would have wanted. It was always their hope that the fund support athletes-in-need well into the future.
“Our time with Special Olympics Storm team at Black Hills Works were some of the best times of our lives,” said Linda. “Special Olympics brought families together. We want to give that blessing to other families.”
We are grateful to the Hettichs for their thoughtful generosity.
The Dennis & Gary Hettich Memorial Fund is helping to ensure no one is left out of the joy of competition and friendship – a fitting tribute to a father and son for whom Special Olympics was everything.