2017 Health Champions
Evan Jorn spent his career as a social worker, industrial engineer and executive director of a nonprofit in Kansas and Florida. During that time, he never played pickleball. It wasn’t until 10 years ago when he was retired and a volunteer for the Meal on Wheels program at the Lawrence Senior Center that someone asked him to play pickleball. He did, and he was hooked. Once Jorn started playing and talking to others about pickleball, the number of players quickly outgrew the senior center. In 2009, Jorn started teaching pickleball classes through Lawrence Parks and Recreation, and a year later, he volunteered to sign up and pay the dues to become an official pickleball ambassador through the USA Pickleball Association. He then successfully helped advocate for more indoor and outdoor places to play pickleball. His enthusiasm for pickleball is contagious. He has compiled an email list of more than 300 pickleball players and sends them information about when and where they can play pickleball, including area tournaments. In December, Jorn was showered with thank-you notes in the shape of pickleball paddles during a surprise party. They described him as kind, big-hearted, patient, an organizational guru, director of fun and wonderful listener.
— “Pickleball has saved my life. This is a super group of caring people inspired by Evan’s example. He’s good at including other people and is a great role model for all of us.”
— Laurie Bottenfield
Adam and Rachel Rolf
When Adam and Rachel Rolf’s son, JJ, was 3 years old, they began looking for opportunities for him to engage in activities with other children. He had been diagnosed with two genetic syndromes that cause intellectual and fine motor disabilities. During their research, they came across the Special Olympics Young Athletes program for children, ages 3 to 7, with intellectual disabilities. There wasn’t one in Douglas County or the surrounding area, so they decided to start one. The Young Athletes program introduces basic sports skills like running, kicking and throwing, and it also teaches children how to play with others. The Rolfs coordinate the Douglas County program, which typically meets twice a month for an hour at Sunset Hill Elementary School. Adam Rolf, a physical therapist, and Rachel Rolf, an attorney, said they thoroughly enjoy their volunteer work and seeing the children, including their son, thrive by participating in the program.
“It has truly warmed my heart to watch my son, Ridley, grow as he has participated in the program. We had tried other organized activities, but Ridley couldn’t participate due to his disability. Thanks to Adam and Rachel, he has an opportunity to learn, grow and have fun.”
— Jill Fitzmorris