San Mateo County Times

Oracle gives air miles to Special Olympics
Tuesday June 22, 1999

By Liz Garone

REDWOOD CITY -- Rather than use their frequent flier miles to go on exotic vacations, Oracle Corp. employees are donating them to a good cause.

Over the last six months, employees have donated more than 1 million United Airlines miles to help send athletes from Bosnia-Herzegovina to the Special Olympics World Games this summer in Raleigh, N.C. It will be the first time in the Special Olympics' 31-year history that Bosnia-Herzegovina will compete.

"Because of the war, our athletes have spent their lives in isolation in institutions or at home," said Marco Pejcinovic, vice president and founding member of Special Olympics Bosnia-Herzegovina. "Their participation in the World Games will show that they have not been forgotten."

Frequent flier miles are being used to fly three Bosnia athletes and their two coaches to this summer's World Games, June 26 to July 4.

It is the first time that any of the Bosnian athletes have traveled outside their war-ravaged home country.

"I want to meet different people and get to share my experiences with my friends back in Bosnia," 100-meter-dash runner Goran Babic said through an interpreter.

"I would like to win a medal, any medal," added long jumper Mersudin Sulagic. "I want to win!"

Also benefiting from frequent flier miles are athletes from Romania, Tajikistan and Surinam. More than 40 tickets are expected to be used this summer.

The program, dubbed Mile-A-Minute, was started last fall by Chuck Sheridan, a senior vice president at Oracle.

Sheridan -- who logs close to 225,000 miles a year -- gave the program a kick start by donating the first 100,000 miles.

Sheridan, the adoptive father of two special-needs children, said he felt moved to do something after seeing a Special Olympics presentation at a company meeting; Oracle is a sponsor of this summer's games.

"I just kept thinking, 'What could we do to help out?'" Sheridan said.

Then it dawned on him: "I realized the fact that we travel all the time might just be the answer."

Sheridan sent out a department e-mail soliciting miles. Later, it was expanded to a company program.

Sheridan -- who logs close to 225,000 miles a year -- gave the program a kick start by donating the first 100,000 miles.

"It just took off from there," he said.

Special Olympics is an international, year-round program of sports training and competition for people with mental retardation.

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