From hiking the back country of Grand Canyon National Park to directing the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Graduate School in San Francisco, Sterling Bobbitt brings a lifetime of adventure to Special Olympics Northern California (SONC).
Sterling is an office volunteer for SONC’s Pleasant Hill headquarters, dedicating his time three days per week to assist in the Volunteer Services department. His responsibilities include processing volunteer applications, ensuring background checks are completed and connecting the prospective volunteers to the correct area, event or sports of their interest.
“Sterling has played a critical role in enhancing the volunteer application process,” said Belinda Sullivan, volunteer services director for SONC. “We started using the website to accept online applications last year and he contributed greatly to the design, implementation and fine-tuning of this tool.”
Sterling became involved in Special Olympics through his son, Eric, who was first introduced to SONC through the Schools Partnership Program and later became more engaged after he graduated and joined the Community Sports Program. Eric has competed in nearly every sport available through SONC during the past four years, motivating Sterling to find a way to support the organization.
“I used to commute into San Francisco for work and this was so much closer to my home,” he said. “It seemed like a great opportunity to give back. I had just retired so I had some time on my hands.”
Along with more than three years of office volunteering, Sterling has supported SONC by participating in the last two San Francisco Polar Plunge fundraisers with Eric and donating his time during Young Athlete Program (YAP) activities and other events.
“The Special Olympics team at the Pleasant Hill office make it a joy to go to ‘work,’” he said. “It’s a worthy cause and my family and I benefit from it directly.”
Outside of Special Olympics, Sterling is an avid outdoorsman and is an instructor for the Boy Scouts of America Winter Camping Program, teaching adults how to take their scout troops out into the mountains and survive safely in the middle of winter. He previously worked as a back-country researcher for Grand Canyon National Park and would hike hundreds of miles out into the wilderness to conduct surveys and research on how increased air travel around the area (helicopters, airplanes, etc.) was impacting the park experience. Sterling met his wife, Gay Anne, in the Park Service, and they eventually had two sons. He later served as Director of the Graduate School, USDA’s San Francisco campus before retiring. Sterling is also a Mayan hammock enthusiast, setting them up in various spots to watch Eric’s competitions (when not coaching) and at home.
Sterling is one of thousands of volunteers that support SONC athletes; each with their own unique story to tell. You can register to become a volunteer and learn more about opportunities in your area at www.sonc.org/get-involved.