HAMMOND, LA (WAFB) - The popular Louisiana Special Olympics games are transitioning to a brand-new leader. The Board of Directors of Special Olympics Louisiana (SOLA) has announced that John Guzzardo has been named the new president and chief executive officer, effective Aug. 1, 2018.
Guzzardo has more than 18 years of nonprofit experience. He is currently executive director of the American Diabetes Association for Louisiana and Mississippi. In his position, he supervises a staff of eight and manages a budget of $2.3 million annually.
"John has a proven record of success in organizational management, fundraising, and leadership which makes him an incredible fit for our organization," said John Saye, chairman of the board of directors. "He will serve our program and stakeholders well."
Guzzardo is originally from Independence and has resided in New Orleans for the past 23 years. He is a graduate of the University of New Orleans with a degree in Recreational Therapy and Psychology.
Guzzardo replaces retiring Pat Carpenter Bourgeois. Bourgeois has worked to build Louisiana Special Olympics into the successful and beloved program it is. Forty-six years ago, she began her involvement as a volunteer Local, and Area Coordinator. She served as Training Director, Sports and Competition Director, Volunteer Director, Program Director, and Director of Development prior to her election by the SOLA Board of Directors to become CEO in 2006.
"It has been my honor to serve the athletes of Special Olympics," stated Bourgeois. "I have learned so much from them, and they have learned from SOLA. I beam with pride when I hear their thoughtful input, their creative ideas, and see their skill in learning to become leaders in our Movement."
She leaves behind big footprints to fill. Bourgeois took SOLA programs for athletes where none previously existed; assisted with the International Special Olympics Summer Games in Baton Rouge in 1983; developed the number one athlete training program in the nation; recognized by Founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver; pioneered the first power-lifting program; created a program for low motor ability athletes; our volunteer numbers have doubled and our athletes have grown from 7,237 in 2006 to 14,880 in 2016.
As president and CEO, Guzzardo' s primary responsibilities include strategic leadership, operational management, fundraising and moving forward the Special Olympics Louisiana mission and objectives consistent with the policies, practices and procedures set forth by Special Olympics, Inc. and the Special Olympics Louisiana Board of Directors.
"Guzzardo will play a key role in maintaining partnerships with SOLA Statewide Partners and individual donors, while he will also oversee the SOLA Programs staff as they continue to offer sports and special services," said the SOLA board.
Special Olympics serves more than 15,000 Louisiana athletes and oversees 18,000 volunteers.