Torch Icon Campaign: Athlete Marks 25 Years at Publix

By Delanie Ross / Special Olympics Florida

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Special Olympics Florida athlete Jonathan Doring is celebrating 25 years at Publix! A job that began as a high school project has become an influential part of his life. His current role as a cashier extends beyond work and into meaningful customer relationships.

Jonathan has been a part of Special Olympics for 35 years, competing in golf, softball, bocce and other sports. But, by far, his favorite is tennis. He’s been to five Special Olympics USA Games, including the very first which were held in Iowa 2006. He also went to two Special Olympics World Games, winning gold in Athens in 2011 and serving as an official for tennis in Los Angeles in 2015. In 2022, he was one of two Publix employees inducted into the Special Olympics Florida Hall of Fame.

Jonathan’s time at Publix began as part of a high school “Diversified Career Training” class. The class required Jonathan to identify a job he was interested in, create a plan to get the job, and then write a manual about what the job entailed. Kathleen Doring, Jonathan’s mom, credits Publix and Special Olympics Florida with “giving him the courage and confidence to believe in himself.” She said both Special Olympics Florida and Publix spark joy for Jonathan.

Publix is Special Olympics Florida’s longest-standing corporate partner, supporting our mission since 1972. It is an industry leader in providing career opportunities to people with intellectual disabilities and employs Special Olympics Florida athletes all across the state.

Every January, it sponsors the Torch Icon Campaign at Publix, inviting customers to donate to Special Olympics programs in states across the southeast U.S. Since 1993, the Torch Icon Campaign has raised more than $71 million to support Special Olympics athletes.

Kathleen says Publix displays an exceptional "level of understanding” for people with intellectual disabilities. The company focuses on what a person does, “not what he doesn’t do – which is incredible.”

Both Jonathan and Kathleen have recruited athletes to participate in the Torch Icon Campaign. Several athletes have been hired after the campaign because Publix was so impressed with their skills.

“Publix is great at recognizing the ability of our athletes and utilizing their skills and talents,” Kathleen said.

Over time, Jonathan has become an effective fundraiser because of his ability to connect with customers. When he first started out, he was disappointed when some people didn’t donate, but he’s learned not to take it personally.

“I just say thank you,” he said. “I guess there is always next time.” Jonathan’s secret to great customer relationships?

“I listen to them,” he said. “It’s the key to customer service.”