SPRING HILL — Fred and Frances Click sat side by side on a recent Saturday afternoon, observing local Special Olympics bowlers, helping make sure things were running smoothly.
This is the heart and soul of Fred Click, who this fall retired as county coordinator for Special Olympics after six years in the post and nine years of volunteering.
The Clicks became involved with Special Olympics partly because their daughter, Angela, is a participating athlete and inspired them to help the program grow.
During a state competition in 2000, the Clicks witnessed Special Olympics athletes swimming and grinning from ear to ear as they got out of the pool, and they were immediately hooked.
"Our hearts were with these kids," Fred Click said. "We could see that this was life-changing for them."
As a former director of business and finance for the Glades County School Board, Click was plenty familiar with organizing people and finances. So when he started work with Special Olympics, he knew he was a capable manager. But this was new territory because it was strictly voluntary, and entirely dependent on donations.
Click, 75, is a humble man and reluctant to take credit for the growth of the local Special Olympics program. Rather, he lauds the volunteers he was able to organize over the years.
"This is not a one-man job," he said as he glanced toward his wife.
When he started as coordinator, Click spoke with members of his church, Christian Church in the Wildwood, in an effort to find volunteers.
As things picked up, he worked with organizations such as the Sheriff's Office, the Kiwanis Club and the Knights of Columbus.
"Because of my ability to get volunteers, we made a success of it, but we couldn't do it without them," Click said.
Kathy Hardina has seen Click in action and has been impressed by his work.
He invited her son, Vince, 28, to Special Olympics for bowling and swimming. He also asked him to join a Bible study group for developmentally disabled people at his church.
"Fred is a wonderful family man," Hardina said. "He and Frances are both wonderful people."
With the help of the community and the dedication of volunteers, the county's Special Olympics has grown rapidly over the years.
When Click started, there were just a handful of athletes. Now there are more than 130.
The program has expanded to include a variety of sports, including track and field, soccer, swimming, equestrian, bowling, weightlifting and lawn bowling.
In an effort to honor the athletes for their hard work, Click also started the tradition of an annual award dinner.
Click has stressed the importance of being meticulous in setting up competitions. He has goes over rosters carefully to ensure the athletes are placed according to their skill levels.
"I think we are both perfectionists," said Frances Click, 51, who previously worked as a state auditor. "Our No. 1 concern has always been the athletes."
Although Fred Click is no longer the program's coordinator, he is still an active volunteer and present for many of the competitions.
He would like to see the program continue to expand and offer more sports — all for the disabled athletes.
"It is all about service," he said. "There are so many people out here who need a hand."