Volunteer work is second nature to Vito Martino, 39, of Mokena.

While growing up in Evergreen Park with his parents, Mike and Lee Martino, Martino and his three brothers would often accompany their father, an Italian immigrant who came to the U.S. as a teenager in the late 1960s, on his many charitable outings.

“He pretty much committed to himself that since he was able to better himself, he was going to better the life of others,” Martino said.

“Let’s say … he made sure we participated and understood how lucky we were vs. others.”

The recent recipient of Exelon Corp.’s employee achievement award for his volunteer work on behalf of the Special Olympics Chicago, Martino took well to his father’s lessons.

The 16-year employee and current director of transmission for Exelon’s subsidiary, ComEd, Martino took charge three years ago of what was originally going to be a “fun day” event for the employees and helped transform it into something more meaningful.

“We kind of put our heads together and said, ‘We have to make it even larger (than a fun day) and support people who are less fortunate than us.’ So I sort of led the pack to proceed with that,” Martino said.

His choice of the Special Olympics was inspired in part by his father’s work with sick children at Hope Hospital, Martino said, but another influence on his decision was the impact of Kim Brown, a disabled friend of Martino and his wife, Laura.

“Just watching (Brown), you’d never think she is wheelchair-bound with everything she does in the community,” Martino said.

With only a six-week window for the fundraiser in 2011, Martino and a group of coworkers conducted an “aggressive” campaign, he said, raising about $19,000.

The second fundraiser more than doubled that amount over a longer period of time, coming in “just shy” of $40,000, Martino’s goal for this year, he said.

As important as the funds are to Martino, a new goal for the Sept. 7 golf outing and dinner has him even more excited.

“We always have Special Olympics children there to welcome (guests),” Martino said. “My intent this year is ... to involve them in the (golf) activities.”

Martino said he has seen first-hand the delight on children’s faces when they feel valued and special.

One memory from his childhood was a Christmas party for children his father helped organize as a member of the Sons of Italy of Evergreen Park.

“It was really cold outside and children walked in who had sweatshirts and holes in their clothes,” Martino said. “I’ll never forget one child was pretty much in tears because he was able to get a new jacket.”

Martino and his father are now helping create the same kind of memories for Martino’s three daughters: Maria, 9, Christina, 8, and Sara, 6.

The girls have played the role of elves to their grandfather’s Santa Claus at Christmas parties very similar to those Martino attended as a child.

Martino believes he is part of a second important family of volunteers at ComEd.

The employee achievement award is part of Exelon’s annual Energy for the Community Volunteer Awards and comes with a $10,000 cash grant to the Special Olympics in Martino’s honor. But, Martino said it doesn’t end with an annual grant to one organization. He’s been involved with additional charitable activities and volunteer work through his company.

“ComEd’s been taking an active role in multiple events across Illinois in supporting their employees to support the less fortunate,” Martino said.

“It’s important because people like myself who became successful in life and were given opportunities in life to be successful … the way I was brought up was to try to support the less fortunate, if possible,” Martino said.