Sharon Boyle loves to give back to her community.
She finds her work with the special needs community rewarding, and while she is retiring from her positions at both the Federal Way Community Center and the Federal Way Public Schools District, she still wants to continue working with them as long as she can.
Boyle, who worked as the Special Olympics unified sports coordinator, has been working with special needs individuals for over 30 years, starting with her involvement in the Rainbow Club in Burien.
The director of the program at the time, Donna Oster-Dahl, thought Boyle would do well coaching special needs athletes. Boyle jumped at the opportunity.
“I started coaching bowling and from there, I’m here now,” Boyle said.
The most rewarding part of the job was the growth Boyle saw in the athletes she worked with.
“You watch somebody that comes out and is a little shy at first and doesn’t know where they fit in, and for them to actually come out of their shell and start fitting in and participating… to see that whole thing happen just because you brought them together for a sports program, that’s fabulous,” she said.
While Boyle enjoys all of the sports she coaches, her favorite is softball, she said, because that’s what she grew up playing.
Boyle also said she’d like the community to know the athletes she works with are no different than anyone else.
“Sometimes they’re limited physically or challenged mentally, but they still have the same feelings you have,” she said. “They just may be going through them at a different pace of their life than you are.”
Boyle also does a lot of work with Friendship Theater, which puts on productions for the community every June.
She works as the producer, director and choreographer for the theater, as well as anything else it might need for productions. She is thankful for everyone else who works to make Friendship Theater possible.
“I have a lot of great people that help me in so many areas,” she said. “Otherwise I couldn’t do this huge of a program because it is a huge undertaking.”
They just finished performing “Mary Poppins,” and Boyle said next year’s production will start work in September.
Friendship Theater started over 20 years ago after several special needs individuals wanted to put on a show for the community.
“From there we just decided, let’s just do a regular performance,” she said.
Of her retirement, Boyle said she is leaving with a heavy heart.
“It’s hard,” she said. “This program has grown so much over the years and gotten so big… it’s a big job, and you get a little older and you don’t have quite that energy, so it’s time for somebody young that has that passion that I had when I was that age to get in here and keep that program going.”
The school district has found a replacement for Boyle, and she said that helps ease her heart more.
Boyle has had a rewarding career, she said, and is taking many memories with her. One of the biggest memories is seeing parents watch their children grow and come more out of their shell.
“Just to see an athlete go from starting out barely knowing how to kick a ball and at the end actually getting the idea that, oh if I kick it and it goes in [the goal] people are going to cheer for me,” she said.
As for being nominated for this month’s Citizen of the Month, Boyle said she was honored.
“This community is fabulous,” she said. “Everybody within it has just been so supportive of my program and me. It feels good.”