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Special Olympics director, coach dies at 72 Known for his passion, dedication to providing sports programs for all

Maryland Gazette - 1/29/2020

Walter 'Gregg' Meade, area director for Special Olympics Anne Arundel County and known for his passion and dedication to the program, died at 72. His son, Nicholas Meade, was awarded by Governor Larry Hogan on Thursday for his work in Special Olympics.

During the Police Plunge this week, part of the Polar Bear Plunge fundraising event for Special Olympics Maryland, Hogan gave the 34-year-old athlete the Jimmy Myrick Jr. Governor's Courage Award.

"Over the last 19 months, you demonstrated exceptional courage as you supported and encouraged your father while he fought hard in his battle with cancer," Hogan said.

"Your dad was very proud of you and a champion of courage that you have become."

Together, the two worked on providing competitive sports with the Anne Arundel County Special Olympics. Meade worked as the area director with his son, first as an athlete and then part of the management team. For 18 years, Meade lead the county Special Olympics to provide athletes with intellectual or physical disabilities an opportunity to participate in year-long sports training and athletic competition.

Meade was first interested in Special Olympics after he and his wife, Martha, adopted their son, Martha Meade said.

"We adopted a little boy, and he was special needs. My husband was big into sports and he felt all people should have the right to participate," she said.

At first, Meade volunteered, and then he became an assistant coach, rising to coach before taking on the director role. Throughout all of it, Martha Meade said her husband's priority was the athletes.

"He was very passionate about the program and his athletes, and that is what he called them - his athletes. The coaches borrowed them, and he would tell them that. 'They are my athletes - you are just borrowing'," Martha Meade said, with a laugh.

Meade was able to work with over 400 athletes. He coordinated events and would attend practices, she said.

His dedication to Special Olympics was seen and appreciated by others. Glenn Carr, an Annapolis parent of an athlete, said Meade was humble but worked hard in the background.

"He really cared about the program and the significance the program has on athletes, families and the community," Carr said. "I know because of his compassion, our county has one of the most solid Special Olympics programs in the state of Maryland."

Carr first met Meade in 2001 when his daughter, Susanna Carr, first started with track and field. Gregg and Nicholas Meade would always warmly greet Carr and his daughter, Carr said.

"The impact he left on us was his passion for the program and for families. He did things the right way," Carr said.

When Meade was diagnosed with lung cancer, Martha Meade said he fought for nearly 19 months and thought about Special Olympics and who could continue the work after he was gone. On Jan. 8, he passed away.

"He thought long and hard because he didn't want to leave the athletes just hanging," Martha Meade said.

He decided that Katy Schieman, who worked in the management team and was first introduced to Gregg Meade in the 1990s, would be a good fit because of her mentality and her focus on Special Olympics athletes, Martha Meade said.

Schieman attributed the success of the county Special Olympics to Gregg Meade and his work ethic. She said through his leadership, the organization built up sports like basketball and encouraged athletes to try out things like bowling. A day before he passed away, Schieman visited him in the hospital because he asked to meet and talk more about Special Olympics.

"Even though he knew he was dying, he knew he had things he wanted to do and things in place before he was gone," she said.

Though she has more to learn, Schieman said the management team and Nicholas Meade will help her continue to do good work.

"My first goal is to keep things going the way he did," she said.

Caption: Walter 'Gregg' Meade, Anne Arundel County Special Olympics director and coach, died Jan. 8. Meade, 72, was an architect of the county's Special Olympics program.

Michelle Haddix Pena/Courtesy

 
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