Justin Dunning is a Region Director for Special Olympics Illinois and responsible for all aspects of programming, management of athletic competitions and fundraising in Region J of South-Central Illinois which includes 1,200 athletes, 850 coaches and 1,500 volunteers. He has created a strategic brand direction for Region J through public relations and awareness, media communications, education and family involvement as well as better communication between agencies, coaches, athletes and IHSA officials. Under his leadership, there has been a steady increase in athletes, volunteers and financial support.
He started his career with Special Olympics as an intern in college and returned to the organization as a full-time employee in 2013 when he became Southern Regional Manager of Sports Training and Competition. In this role, he taught coaches and volunteers the rules and fundamentals of the game, game management and how to assist the athletes on being successful. His collaboration with knowledgeable trainers improved coach education and athlete experience as well as more than doubled the number of coach certificates in a one year period. In addition, Justin brought flag football to Special Olympics of Illinois in 2018. Today, over 2,000 athletes participate in the sport throughout the state.
Justin’s love of sports does not end when he goes home each day. For several years, Justin has coached baseball and basketball at Wesclin Middle School. Many of these players never played sports before or had instruction on the fundamentals of the game as this was their first opportunity to play organized sports in their community. Recognizing the lack of skills of players in middle school and high school, Justin knew the way to stop this trend was to teach children how to play basketball from an earlier age.
Justin and a friend hosted a baseball camp, Behind the Plate, to teach baseball fundamentals to children in pre-k through 6th grade. In 2019 Justin spearheaded the forming of the Little Warriors Basketball program which offered programs on Saturday mornings in January through early March. In the inaugural season of the Little Warriors, over 200 Wesclin school students in pre-k through grade 7 participated in the program.
He was recognized as 2018/2019 Illinois Coach of the Year by the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association and the Southern Illinois Junior High Athletic Association. Justin earned his bachelor’s degree in Sports Management and an MBA from Quincy University. He was recently appointed to the Village of New Baden Park Board.
Justin is being recognized in the category of Humanitarian and/or voluntary leadership. He was nominated by the New Baden Jaycees. He lives in New Baden with his wife, Kelsey and children, Madeline, Will and Cam.