Special Olympics Maine founder and former CEO Melvin “Mickey” D. Boutilier died on Dec. 24 at age 83 after a brief illness with family members by his side, according to Lisa Bird, Special Olympics Maine’s director of media relations.
Boutilier was a teacher, volunteer and veteran who served as executive director and then CEO of Special Olympics Maine for more than 35 years.
Boutilier also devoted his summers to working at Camp Waban, Maine’s first day camp for children with intellectual disabilities. Waban was where he developed his love for the people he worked with and motivated him to become a special education teacher, according to Bird.
In 1968, Boutilier learned about a national event taking place at Soldiers Field in Chicago that would offer Olympic-style sports competition to people with intellectual disabilities. Liking the idea, he took a group of special education students from Maine to compete in this first-ever Special Olympics event, which was started by Eunice Kennedy Shriver and sponsored by the Joseph P. Kennedy Foundation.
Boutilier was named the executive director of Special Olympics Maine in 1969 by the Joseph P. Kennedy Foundation. The first Special Olympics event in Maine was held in Portland in the summer of 1969.
During its early years the program served 900 athletes, and upon Boutilier’s retirement in 2002 it was serving upwards of 2,500, according to Bird.
Boutilier was given The Angel Award, the highest award presented by Special Olympics Inc. He was close with Special Olympics founder Shriver and spent a great deal of time working with her and others to further develop the worldwide program, according to Bird.
A celebration of Boutilier’s life will take place at a later date at Camp Tall Pines in Poland which is owned and operated by Special Olympics Maine.