Siegel making a difference for local Special Olympic athletes

For his commitment to providing a level playing field for all to equally enjoy the beauty of sport.

For his dedication in stretching athletic opportunities and nurturing the differently-abled athletes who directly benefit from them.

For his always positive, can-do, rah-rah spirit in helping others.

Jerry Siegel has been instrumental in establishing the School Games for Special Olympics of Santa Barbara.

Jerry Siegel has been instrumental in establishing the School Games for Special Olympics of Santa Barbara.

And, most recently, for paving the way for 250 young and first-time special athletes from 26 elementary schools from Santa Ynez to Carpinteria to savor the true joy of competition at last month’s uber-successful School Games.

For all of these many selfless contributions and more — longtime Special Olympics volunteer and community star Jerry Lawrence Siegel has been named Presidio Sports’ Volunteer of the Month.

And for Siegel, it’s all a labor of love …

“It’s rewarding and just plain fun being with these athletes,” he shares.

In 2013, Siegel received the Outstanding Adult Volunteer Award from Special Olympics – Southern California, Santa Barbara County Region.

A most deserving accolade that was presented by Bill Shumard, CEO of Special Olympics – Southern California, and Rafer Johnson, USA Olympic Gold Medalist (Decathlon, 1960 Olympic Games in Rome) and founder of Special Olympics in Southern California.

It recognized Siegel’s “more than seven years coaching every Saturday in both soccer and track … an exceptional volunteer giving additional time to organize the School Games … going the extra mile for the athletes, giving his time and energy to fellow coaches and the Leadership Council.”

“Jerry is an integral part of Special Olympics — from serving as Assistant Chair of our Leadership Council … to soccer coach … to track and field coach … to attending the Summer Games with athletes … to running the races at School Games …to serving as tournament director of the Santa Barbara Region Basketball Tournament — if it wasn’t for him, we could not offer the type of quality programs we do for our local athletes,” credits Tim Philibosian, the regional sports manager for Special Olympics Southern California – Santa Barbara County Region.


Pacific Western Bank in Santa Barbara

This monthly series is made possible by Pacific Western Bank

Presidio Sports and Pacific Western Bank have partnered to recognize important volunteer work in the local sports community. This monthly spotlight series is our way of thanking those that selflessly give themselves for the benefit of many. To all volunteers making a difference, we salute you.

Coach Siegel

Coach Siegel, center, a former pole vaulter, helps with track & field and soccer.

By all accounts, Jerry Siegel has a special talent in touching lives in a positive, most profound way for those of all ages who may need a boost the most … those who may truly need a real champion.

And Siegel does it both behind-the-scenes in meetings with a quiet, yet passionate focus, and then with great fanfare and wondrous encouragement on the sidelines.

He landed here locally in 2003 after a very successful legal career on the East Coast.

“I had heard many nice things about Santa Barbara,” he confided.

And, once here, it didn’t take long to dig in …

The very next year, he stepped up as a volunteer with the Santa Barbara International Film Festival — and continues to serve on its Production Team.

Then in 2005, he learned Special Olympics needed a soccer coach — he jumped on board and has co-coached with Brian Medel and Jane Beiner every season since …

“…Jerry’s imprint can be seen at almost every event; whether he is in front coaching, or behind the scenes working with the SOSC staff to organize the first annual soccer tournament or other various fundraising events,” Beiner said.  “Jerry’s volunteering goes beyond coaching, he is not only able to connect to the athletes but he is able toforge long-term relationships and they all know him by name…”

“I just love it! I have always been drawn to these special athletes,” Jerry says.

Melissa Fitch, a parent of a special olympics athlete and Chair of the local Down Syndrome Association, admires his efforts.

Jerry with track athlete Ben Medina

Jerry with track athlete Ben Medina

“When it comes to volunteers – Jerry is just one of those big hearted teddy bears who does whatever it takes to make it happen. He remembers every single name of the athletes and always greets them with love and respect,” Fitch said.

“He just cares so much – and is just an amazing sweet-hearted person!”

Three years ago – when a track coach was needed – this former high school pole vaulter and previous marathon runner (ran NYC Marathon seven times and London two times) stepped up here, too. Now there’s 27 track and field Special Olympians happy that he did.

That was about the same time he was asked to serve on Special Olympics local Leadership Council.

Jerry is an inspiring individual and a role model to all of us on the Special Olympics Leadership Council,” says Catharine Manset, Senior Vice President & Santa Barbara Market Manager for Pacific Western Bank, this award’s sponsor. “Even with his busy schedule, he finds the time to volunteer hundreds of hours each year for Special Olympics Santa Barbara with a combination of grace, charm and humility. His cheerful and positive attitude is infectious and an ongoing source of encouragement for our local athletes, staff, coaches and volunteers.

Wait, there’s more …

The last year, he was instrumental in kicking off the first annual Soccer School Games – 16 teams playing at Girsh Park and all in coordination with local public schools.

Community volunteers watch an enthusiastic young thrower compete in the ball throw at the School Games at Santa Barbara City College.

Community volunteers watch an enthusiastic young thrower compete in the ball throw at the School Games at Santa Barbara City College.


“Jerry always has his hand up and is willing to do whatever it takes to help Special Olympics.  He loves these athletes and is great on the Leadership Council,” said Aaron Brown, Chairmain of the Leadership Council. “He is always positive – always has a smile in his face – its easy to see that he really loves what he does.”

And today Siegel is additionally leading a Special Olympics committee in getting ready for the 2015 World Games that are being held in Los Angeles beginning July 25 through August 2 on the USC and UCLA campuses.

Santa Barbara will be a host town.

All in all, when it comes to Special Olympics and helping others, it’s safe to say that our newest Volunteer of the Month has boundless energy (he also helps with The Amgen Tour, SB Marathon and with adaptive programs for SB City Parks and Recreation) for making a positive difference in the world, starting right here in our own backyard …

In Jerry’s own words….

“It’s great getting to know these Special Olympians and working alongside them — sharing in their excitement and joy in winning and losing and always trying their best.”

That’s Jerry Lawrence Siegel – a true champion of providing fair and equal opportunities in all that he touches … a humble community star … great guy … and, of course:

Teddy Bear!!

Top 10 Things You Likely Didn’t Know About Jerry Lawrence Siegel

  • Grew up in San Jose – his Dad was a NASA scientist. Mom was a 1st Grade teacher for 35 years and he is the eldest of four siblings.
  • Dreamed as a young boy of “traveling the world and having fun.”
  • He’s no stranger to helping — served as a playground supervisor during his high school summers.
  • Impeccable educational credentials: Stanford (Bachelor of Arts, History); London School of Economics & Yale Law School (Juris Doctorate), then clerked for US Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart during the Nixon Watergate years.
  • Served as Federal Prosecutor in U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan specializing in white collar, organized crime “and stuff that only happens in New York” before later going into private practice.
  • Realized it was time to leave New York City and move back to his native California when scrambling to pick up his young son, Alex from school on 9-11-2001. (Now 22, Alex just graduated from Otis College of Art & Design in Los Angeles.)
  • His adoring fans include his Golden Retriever (Dusty age 13) and Benji, a rescued three-year-old mixed breed terrier.
  • Lost house in the Montecito Tea Fire (2008). Rebuilt.
  • Last eight years, he’s been biking around the globe every year for two weeks at a stretch — with a long time friend. Next up: Namibia in Southwest Africa in August.
  • Loves & lives life to the fullest … still living his dream of traveling the world and having fun.
Jerry Siegel lost his Montecito home in the Tea Fire of 2009.

Jerry Siegel lost his Montecito home in the Tea Fire of 2008.