Ehrlich calls games ‘life-changing’


Jerry Ehrlich has been in love with the St. Louis Senior Olympics since 1985. He became involved with the competition when he was working at the Jewish Community Center (JCC) and worked with the event. He did “anything and everything” when it came to the games.

“I fell in love with the Senior Olympics,” Ehrlich said. “I realized right off the bat that it is a life-changing event.”

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There is a devotion to health and a special camaraderie among the athletes and the volunteers, said Ehrlich.

“I’ve had athletes tell me it’s saved their lives and turned their lives around,” Ehrlich said. “It is life-enriching and life- saving: both emotionally and physically.”

Ehrlich has been a mainstay volunteer of the Senior Olympics since 1985 and only missed one or two games over the years. He loves the competition, cheering for the athletes or just getting a hot dog for lunch with the other volunteers.

“It is just amazing to see a 95-year-old woman complete the 100-meter run,” Ehrlich said. “Or see an 80-year-old man who fell on the track, get up and finish the run to a standing ovation from the crowd.”

Over the years Ehrlich has served on the steering committee, as the games chair and has been their track announcer for a long time. He said his track announcing is a “combination of Harry Caray, play-by-play and Rodney Dangerfield.”

“The announcing adds to the excitement of the games,” Ehrlich said. “I have gotten to know the athletes well over the years: what inspires them, their favorite nicknames.”

Ehrlich began his career in broadcasting after studying communications at Northwestern University. He started doing radio sports announcing for Northwestern and the Chicago Bears. It didn’t take long for Ehrlich to decide broadcasting wasn’t for him. He had already started working with kids in the Chicago area before moving to St. Louis in 1985 to work at the JCC and begin his career in the non-profit sector.

After 11 years, Ehrlich left the JCC to serve as the regional director of the American Diabetes Association. He later became the vice president of development at Wyman, a United Way Agency which provides camping and other activities for low income kids. Starting in 2000, he became the executive director of the St. Louis Society for the Physically Disabled. The organization provides children and adults with physical and developmental disabilities a wide variety of social and recreational opportunities.

This year Ehrlich will be supporting the Games as a volunteer and as a participant. After marveling at the athletes over the years, Ehrlich and his wife Robin are excited to be competing for the first time.

“I turned 50 in August 2007 and I am now eligible to be an athlete,” Ehrlich said. “I know it is corny, but I feel like I am joining a special club for ages 50 plus.”

He will be participating in the 5 K, 10 K and 1500-meter runs. He hopes to do well, but mostly hopes to compete in a healthy manner.

“I am sure there will be people out there kicking my butt,” Ehrlich said. “I’ll do my best and have a lot of fun.”

There are a lot of people Ehrlich looks forward to seeing every year at the games and he is looking forward to being a competitor.

“It’s just an amazing and wonderful event,” Ehrlich said. “Just come out and see for yourself. You can’t help but have fun and smile.”