Special Olympics Alaska honors late president Jim Balamaci
A closing ceremony on Sunday marked the end of Special Olympics Alaska's 2018 Winter Games, and celebrated the life of former president Jim Balamaci.
Balamaci died suddenly in February at age 63.
Balamaci was a champion for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. He first became a Special Olympics Alaska volunteer in 1979, then went on to become the president/CEO in 1996.
From hosting the 2001 World Winter Games in Alaska, to building a state-of-the-art training center in Anchorage -- no dream was too big.
On Sunday a crowd of athletes, family members, friends, and dignitaries chanted Balamaci's favorite catch phrase, "Oh yeah!," and remembered his contributions to Special Olympics Alaska that span decades.
"Alaska is such a better place because of Jim," said Gov. Bill Walker.
Walker said the day he learned of Balamaci's passing, he canceled his appointments and visited the training facility, now named the Jim Balamaci Special Olympics Alaska Training Center in his honor.
"Just walking into that building, you just had a sense of how special it was -- how special it was because Jim worked so hard for that," Walker said.
Special Olympics Alaska chair-elect Paul Landes, GCI's senior vice president of customer service, announced another dream of Balamaci's that's well on its way to becoming reality: a $1 million endowment for Special Olympics Alaska.
Landes said $800,000 has already been donated in a time span of just three weeks.
"It says so much about Jim, what he stood for, and how much people respect him," Landes said.
You can donate to the endowment fund through its website.
Editor's note: GCI is KTVA's parent company.
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