Special Olympics Illinois, Amazon Fresh launch program to promote inclusive workplaces

Special Olympics Illinois and Amazon Fresh have partnered to launch a brand-new program that promotes inclusivity and equity in the workplace.

It's not only an opportunity for the Special Olympics athletes at the center of the program, but one for the entire community.

"We hope that this opportunity to really get to know the athletes and see how they continue to deliver for our customers and go above and beyond is going to be something we can grow across the state, in different kinds of business units that we have," said Sarah Glavin, head of community engagement with Amazon in Chicago.

The ‘Inclusive Employment Initiative’ has been months in the making, ever since Special Olympics Illinois and Amazon Fresh in Oak Lawn hosted a "Job Shadow Day" last October.

Nick Lorenz, a Special Olympics Illinois athlete since grade school, was hired on the spot.


Lorenz, who has autism, started his job in December. One of his daily tasks includes charging and swapping batteries for Amazon's high-tech ‘Dash Carts.’ He also helps by stocking shelves and assisting customers.

"I like hanging out with the customers, and hanging out with my new staff," said Lorenz.

The program also matched Natalie Gasser with a job. She has been a Special Olympics Illinois athlete for more than three decades.

Gasser, who has cerebral palsy, had her very first day at Amazon on Tuesday!

"She's built a confidence she didn't have and she feels important, part of society in having a job," said Nancy Gasser, Natalie's mom.

During her debut shift, Gasser worked in the kitchen making fresh pizzas for customers.

"People with disabilities, on average over the last decade, are twice as likely to be unemployed than someone without a disability. This isn't right, this isn't equitable and I think as a community we have to do something, and that's why Special Olympics Illinois and Amazon came together to start job hiring, training and support for people with disabilities," said Mo Khan, Senior Director of Special Olympics Illinois. "We know that Special Olympics athletes are going to rise to the occasion because they are brave, resilient, and they are an inspiration."

In late February, Special Olympics Illinois and Amazon Fresh will be hosting another "Job Shadow Day" in Naperville.

Special Olympics Illinois hopes to see the program expand nationwide.