Ray of Light

Ray Basile devotes his free time to the Indy Special Olympics

Published in 2010 Indiana Rising Stars — March 2010

One cool evening in March 2000, Ray Basile jogged into the Raymond Park Middle School for the first time, where he met 50-some Special Olympics athletes and coaches. Although the Indianapolis attorney had no prior experience mentoring people with intellectual disabilities, he volunteered to help coach track and field that season. As a lifelong athlete, he was up to the task—but he didn’t expect a trial by fire.

“We were walking in front of the stands, where all the parents were sitting, when the woman who runs the program says, ‘Why don’t you lead everyone in warm-ups?’” he recalls. “I was scared and shocked. It was one of the most intimidating things that I can ever remember doing.”

Basile quickly got over the initial shock, and has since put in hundreds of hours with the organization. As part of the Indy Sports Club East—a division of the Marion County Special Olympics—Basile has coached and played on unified teams for a number of events, including basketball, swimming, volleyball and softball.

“What I figured out from that first moment and [stays with me] today, is that if you try to make everybody laugh and have a good time, and just generally goof around, that’s all you need to do to be a good volunteer,” he says.

He also works to raise money for the nonprofit, which relies exclusively on private donations. He’s currently collecting funds for the 2010 FedEx Plane Pull Challenge—a creative sports event in which teams of up to 20 people will compete to pull a 73,500-ton 727 jet at the Indianapolis Airport this upcoming August.

Basile credits his philanthropic hobby with giving him perspective while working his day job at Mercer Belanger, where he resolves construction and real estate disputes. During the economic downturn, many of his clients—building owners, contractors and subcontractors—found themselves, for the first time, in dire straits. “The best-laid plans don’t work out, the project is delayed, funding is lost—all big problems as of late,” he says. “When you have failed or failing projects, there are emotions involved and it’s really difficult to see what the solution is. The Special Olympics, on a weekly basis, re-grounds me as to what’s important, what is a real challenge, and what I ought to be able to shrug off as a normal part of life.”

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