Making a Positive Impact
His job title is “Bagger at Kroger,” a seemingly candid label that hardly describes his best work, even if he’s handled groceries since June 2001. Shoppers may be unaware that the man asking them if they want paper or plastic personally asked Congress for funding in 2005. An international public speaker, Knight of Columbus and Special Olympics athlete, Paul Marretti has raised tens of thousands of dollars for people with intellectual disabilities.
Marretti’s enthusiasm and support for sports goes back to his childhood, when, in no particular order, he participated in soccer, golf, basketball, skiing, bowling, tennis, aquatics and softball. In 1995, he approached a local baseball league about sponsoring a softball game at Richmond’s ballpark. The goal was to raise a little money for the Special Olympics. The outcome was tens of thousands of dollars more than anyone expected, providing funding that resulted in local Special Olympics programs which are still active today.
Marretti entered the Special Olympics the same summer he started his job at Kroger, a regional grocery store chain, earning three medals at the 2001 Special Olympics Virginia Summer Games. He joined the Knights of Columbus the following year and began speaking publicly about the positive impact the games had on the lives of participants. He then became one of a dozen athletes designated as Global Messengers, going on to speak about his experience before 75,000 people at the Dublin Special Olympics World Games in 2003.
In August 2003, he spoke at the 121st Annual Supreme Council Meeting in Washington D.C. An audience of 2,500 listened at the States Dinner as Marretti explained his journey with the Special Olympics.
“It’s always nice to be among friends who are so involved in two organizations which have so dramatically changed my life, Special Olympics and Knights of Columbus,” he said. “Without the Knights of Columbus, Special Olympics athletes like me simply would not have the opportunities we do.”
As an ambassador for the games, Marretti emphasizes that the Special Olympics not only provides an outlet for athletes with disabilities to compete in sports but also provides them a new way to view themselves. The competition gives participants recognition and respect, inspiring people with intellectual disabilities to contribute to their communities and maintain the program for future Special Olympics athletes.
The multisport athlete works to expand the opportunities for people with disabilities, serving on the Board of Directors for Special Olympics VA and the United States Leadership Council for Special Olympics Inc. On top of all of this, he serves on the board of People First, where he also volunteers. Marretti encourages fellow Special Olympic athletes to serve on their regional boards as well, keeping them involved even after they have stopped competing.
Through all of this, Marretti continues to help others back home with his customer service and dependability at Kroger. Over a decade after his employment and Olympic debut, Marretti received the honor of Regional Employee of the Year from Kroger in Virginia. According to his supervisor, his knowledge, dependability and excellent customer service made him a great candidate for the award.
No matter where he is, Marretti continues to make a positive impact on those around him.
As a “Founding Champion of the World Games,” the Knights of Columbus has supported the games since the first Special Olympics in 1968, donating more than $600 million to programs for people with intellectual and physical disabilities.