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Skills-based volunteerism at ESPN helps Bristol, Conn. fifth grader in need

Alex “AJ” Schilling is blind, uses a wheelchair, is going deaf and suffers seizures daily due to a rare disorder that’s afflicted him since birth.

His parents have to carry the 11-year-old, who weighs 72 pounds, from their specially equipped van up to his second-floor bedroom in their Bristol, Conn., area house.

Schilling’s mother was desperately seeking a solution to help her growing son gain access to his wheelchair throughout the house. Make-A-Wish contacted ESPN and the company’s Bristol Facilities team jumped at the chance to help.

The Facilities crew oversaw the construction of a two-story elevator on the side of the house that will make it possible to move AJ from the van in the garage directly to his second-floor bedroom above. Tapping skills they’ve developed over their careers and use every day at work, the Team ESPN volunteers applied those learnings to this project, which was completed last week.

This team activity is part of a growing trend in corporate volunteering called “skills-based volunteering” and it’s about connecting volunteers with the right skills to the right project to create the greatest impact.

“What we call ‘helping hands’ or traditional volunteer opportunities will always be available, and we know how much the organizations appreciate the help,” said Vice President of Corporate Citizenship, Kevin Martinez. “However, you’ll start to see a shift towards more volunteer projects that use your business acumen in volunteering. It’s more valuable to a nonprofit to gain those professional services pro bono and ESPN benefits when we enable our employees to use their business skills to solve social issues.”

Recently, ESPN and Taproot — a leading expert in skills-based volunteering — hosted a roundtable with 18 nonprofits in Connecticut to help scope their needs and see how ESPN employees might be able to use their expertise to help them. More than 20 employees from Technology, Facilities and HR were on-hand to help the organizations determine how they could best utilize skills-based opportunities.

Video produced by Jonothon Halley McLeod

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