By Kevin Kelley
This past summer, 70 persons with intellectual disabilities, ranging in age from 6 to 69, participated in the first Special Olympics competition ever held in Westlake.
That’s something that wouldn’t have happened without Russ Milan.
Milan and his wife, Linda, were named as Mr. and Mrs. Westlake by the Town Criers at the holiday tree lighting at Crocker Park Nov. 20.
Unlike some past honorees, the Milans knew the honor was coming. Milan said he was asked by Bonnie Smith, then president of the Westlake Kiwanis, if she could nominate them for the award.
Involvement with the Kiwanis is Russ Milan’s main community involvement, he said.
A resident of Westlake for 25 years, Milan said he became active in the service organization when a neighbor, Norm Resko, invited him attend some meetings.
“It’s more hands-on community service, and that’s what attracted me,” Milan told West Life.
Milan has also been advisor to thee Westlake Kiwanis’ Aktion Club, a service organization for adults with disabilities. (The “k” in Aktion stands for Kiwanis.) Nationwide, more than 9,000 persons with disabilities belong to Aktion Clubs, with the local Kiwanis serving as each group’s sponsor.
Membership in an Aktion Club is open to any adult living with a disability who desires to become a leader in his/her community and wishes to provide service to others. The Aktion Club’s mission is to provide adults living with disabilities an opportunity to develop initiative, leadership skills and to serve their communities. Its motto is “Where development has no disability.”
Milan’s son and daughter-in-law worked with mentally handicapped persons in their jobs with the county, he said, and that’s how he became interested in helping those with intellectual disabilities.
When Milan suggested the Westlake Kiwanis help out with organizing a local Special Olympics competition, the group was happy to assist.
“It was something I just mentioned at the Kiwanis meeting,” explained Milan, who is certified at the state level to be a Special Olympics coordinator.
Milan said the Special Olympics will return to Westlake High School this July with even more participants.
“We’re going to be having that every year,” he said.
For the past three years, Milan served as chair of Kiwanis’ sponsorship of the city’s annual Memorial Day parade and ceremony at Clague Park.
The father of 11 (the youngest is now 24), Milan was on the board of director of the Westlake Demons Club, which sponsors the high school’s athletic programs, and, with Linda, co-president of the Westlake Music Boosters.
Now the grandfather of 13, Milan served as public address announcer at Westlake High School varsity basketball games when his children were in school.
Milan said he’s pleased to be named Mr. Westlake.
“It recognizes someone that does things for the community,” he said of the title. “I think that’s a neat thing.
“Between Special Olympics and Westlake Kiwanis’ Aktion Club, it’s a very rewarding thing I’ve been involved in. It’s good that gets recognized.”
When West Life spoke with Linda Milan, she said the recognition belonged mainly to her husband.
But Russ said his wife provided plenty of assistance in all his community contributions, especially with the paperwork.
“She’s helped out in all that stuff,” he said.