CHICAGO, Ill. – John F. McDonough, President & CEO of the Chicago Blackhawks has joined the Special Olympics Illinois Foundation Board.
The Special Olympics Illinois Foundation is a 509(a)(3) supporting foundation that supports individuals with intellectual disabilities served by Special Olympics Illinois with an alternative revenue stream in perpetuity. The Foundation provides resources and support for program innovation and athlete growth for non-recurring budget items such as USA Games and World Games, capital expenses and technology advancement.
McDonough was named President & CEO of the Blackhawks in 2011, after joining the organization as President in 2007. Under his guidance, in what Forbes Magazine has called “The Greatest Sports-Business Turnaround Ever,” the Blackhawks have revitalized the team’s profile and re-energized its fan base. The Blackhawks achieved their “One Goal” of a Stanley Cup championship in 2010 and again in 2013.
Prior to joining the Blackhawks, McDonough served as President of the Chicago Cubs. During his 24-year tenure with the Cubs, the team won the 2007 National League Central Division while setting an all-time franchise attendance record.
McDonough joins the following people on the Special Olympics Illinois Foundation Board:
Dave Breen, President & CEO of Special Olympics Illinois, Normal
Frank Burke, Managing Director of Aon Risk Solutions, Chicago
Jerry Cole, CEO of Waste Gasification Systems, Chicago
Anthony Coletta, Senior VP Corporate Finance of Prudential Capital Group, Chicago
Robert DiMeo, Managing Director & Co-Founder of DiMeo Schneider & Associates, Chicago
Dan Doheny, Chief Financial Officer of Reyes Holdings, Rosemont
Doug Donovan, Senior Vice President of GE Capital, Chicago
Jerry Dyson, Partner of @ Properties Gold Coast, Chicago
Jenny Fortner, Managing Director of Goldman Sachs & Co., Chicago
Phil Fowler, Director of Tribler Orpett & Meyer PC, Chicago
Don Gereau, CEO of GT Mobility, Galena
Julie Gustafson, Senior Vice President of U.S. Trust, Bank of America, Chicago
Dan Lange, Senior Vice President, Illinois Region Head of Wells Fargo Bank, NA, Chicago
Jay Leonard, Vice President of Bernstein Global Wealth, Chicago
Jim Pieper, Chief Accounting Officer, CME Group Inc., Chicago
Ed Rafferty, Superintendent of Schaumburg School District, Palatine
David Shane, Partner of FGMK, LLC, Bannockburn
Special Olympics Illinois is a not-for-profit organization offering year-round training and competition in 19 sports for more than 21,300 athletes with intellectual disabilities and nearly 13,000 Young Athletes ages 2-7 with and without intellectual disabilities. Special Olympics changes lives by empowering people with intellectual disabilities to realize their full potential in sports and in life. Special Olympics programs enhance physical fitness, motor skills, self-confidence, social skills and encourage family and community support. If you are interested in learning more about Special Olympics Illinois, volunteering or providing financial support to help make Special Olympics programs possible, contact your local Special Olympics agency, call 800-394-0562 or visit our website at www.soill.org.
Volunteer Mary Manley visited the 15th annual MedFest at United Center in Chicago to hear from doctors and athletes about why this event is so important to each of them.
By Mary Manley, Special Olympics Illinois volunteer
It is worth celebrating that this is the 15th year Chicago MedFest has been making the seemingly impossible happen. Hundreds of volunteers from Advocate Medical Group, Illinois College of Optometry, Lions Clubs International, United Center and GE joined forces with Special Olympics Illinois on November 13, 2013. Over the course of only five hours, 1,434 aspiring and current athletes received physical exams necessary for their participation in Special Olympics. Many hundreds also had vision screenings and received free glasses if needed. The reason for this annual event is to insure that every one who wants to participate in Special Olympics can.
A Simple Beginning
Not exactly a dramatic beginning. But like many things on this day, what is said only in words or numbers leaves out the best part of the story. Like the huge enthusiastic grins that went with this athlete’s answer to “How is MedFest?” and “What do you think of Special Olympics?” Only when those grins are added in do you begin to capture the excitement of the day. It is visible in the faces of just about every one at MedFest.
Of course MedFest has had its dramatic moments. For example some years back at MedFest a doctor caught a life-threatening heart condition that literally saved a child’s life. But again, there is something worth celebrating in the relative absence of this kind of story today. As one doctor who has been coming virtually every year since MedFest’s beginning said, “I got regulars now.” The rarity of drama is a testament to the benefits of consistent exposure to quality health care. And MedFest provides that.
Thanks to the United Center
In that same vein, everyone can appreciate the generosity of United Center. It has opened its doors and staff to MedFest for the 15th year in a row now. But the United Center brings more than lots of free space to the party. It brings the World Champion Chicago Blackhawks out to practice on the ice. Can you imagine the excitement of getting to watch the Blackhawks practice live while you wait to see a doctor? Now factor in the occasions when an athlete received a signed hockey stick or a doctor got a puck. The personal connections made may be remembered even longer than all the excitement.
Advocate Medical Group and ICO
Hundreds of volunteer health care professionals from Advocate Medical Group and the Illinois College of Optometry volunteer their time for MedFest. Their participation has a huge in-kind value. But what you don’t see in the numbers is the continuous welcoming smiles, enthusiastic high fives and countless stickers they share with the athletes. Their comments reflect their genuine affection for the athletes. One doctor who has a long history with MedFest said, “I look forward to it every year. It’s great because the kids look forward to coming and the doctors do too. They (the athletes) deserve the best of life that can be given.” A physician’s assistant who was volunteering for her third year said, “It’s been a lot of fun. It’s a great event where we do these sports physicals so they can be active in activities they want to do. When you’re here (you) just keep a smile on your face and make sure that the person you are seeing is having a good time…make sure it’s a good experience for them.” Another physician, who has actually never missed a year since MedFest started, simply said, “I love it!”
Of course everyone understands the benefits of MedFest for the athletes. Equally important is the training and experience MedFest brings to the medical staff. One physician remarked that he had never treated such a large volume of patients with these athletes particular needs before Medfest. Obviously, his and everyone else’s experience at MedFest significantly enriches their abilities to work with similar people in their day-to-day practice. But there are other more subtle lessons that the health care professionals learn from their interactions with these athletes. One physician volunteered that the experience has made her grateful for what she has. And a physician’s assistant had this to share: “It helps you to remember that you have to treat everybody as someone special…as an individual… and give attention to them.”
It’s All About the Personal Stories
One of the coaches shared a story about Samantha, one of her athletes. The story illustrates something else the athletes have to teach us. It also explains why, if you tell Samantha that you hear she is a runner, she will give you a smile that will stay with you for the rest of the day.
When Samantha first started training for Special Olympics, walking the few blocks between her school and the park was daunting. In fact, she had to sit down and rest to do it. So, when Samantha was ready to run a 50-meter race at a Special Olympics event, she was rightfully proud. But luck was not on Samantha’s side. Through one of those cosmic mix-ups, Samantha ended up in the wrong place – at the site for the 100-meter race. Samantha had never run a 100-meter race in her life. To make matters worse, the race was already finished. But the referees could see that Samantha really wanted to run. They explained that she could not win anything officially. However, if she still wanted to run it was OK with them. Samantha was psyched. She ran the track. Her first 100-meter race ever and it was without the benefit of competitors to either help pace or motivate.
In the meantime, her coach was not aware of history being made across the field. All she knew was that she wanted Samantha to have a chance to shine in the 50 meter.
So she negotiated for Samantha’s 50-meter heat to be moved to a later slot. That gave her time to locate Samantha. The field between the two races loomed larger than usual to Samantha after her 100-meter adventure. Still Samantha did not give up. She arrived just in time for the rescheduled race. Of course, Samantha was no longer on an even playing field with her competitors. But she ran anyway – because Samantha has the spirit of a champion.
“Always be Great”
Dr. Rayner, a physician who has participated at MedFest for 14 of its 15 years, seems to look at life a similar way. When asked what he would like to say to the athletes he said, “Know that you are loved… I encourage you to be the best that you can… I say, don’t be good – always be great!”
That is the spirit Samantha and so many of these athletes have. And, perhaps because of their example, it shows up in the people around them surprisingly often as well. It makes one wonder if SO should have a duel meaning – Special Olympics and Spirit Olympics.
It seems appropriate to end with a quote from a 15-year old athlete. When asked what she would like to say to the doctors (and all the organizations and many volunteers) at MedFest, Robin became very thoughtful. She took the offer seriously. Suddenly her face broke into a smile and she spoke from her heart.
NORMAL, Ill.–The Law Enforcement Torch Run® for Special Olympics (LETR) has awarded the 2013 Richard LaMunyon Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Hall of Fame award to Chief Russ Laine of the Algonquin Police Department at the annual International Law Enforcement Torch Run Conference in Orlando, Fla., which was held Nov. 7-9.
Chief Laine was presented with the award for his selfless dedication to the athletes of Special Olympics. He became involved in the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics in 1990, when the LETR raised just $20,000 in Illinois. This year, the Illinois LETR is expected to raise $3 million!
Through his years of involvement, Chief Laine has guided his department to one of the state’s leading fundraising departments, raising nearly $110,000 over the last five years. He has led by example by actively recruiting new agencies across the state and participating in nearly every fundraiser Illinois has created including plunging into Lake Michigan as part of the Polar Plunge. Chief Laine began serving on the Special Olympics Illinois Board of Directors in 2010, providing a law enforcement voice and insight to this group.
His involvement over the years in the International Association of Chiefs of Police has paid huge dividends for the LETR. He has been instrumental in renewing their support and enthusiasm for the Special Olympics movement. Chief Laine has led the LETR efforts not only in Illinois, but throughout the world. From his installation as 6th Vice President of the International Association of Chiefs of Police to his rise to President, he worked tirelessly on behalf of the LETR. In addition, he participated in the 2007 International LETR Final Leg event, as well as two USA Games Final Legs as a support member.
This international award, named for the founder of the LETR, is the most prestigious award given in the LETR community worldwide. The award recognizes outstanding individuals who have demonstrated a sustained and significant contribution to Special Olympics and the LETR at the local, national and international levels.
During the Hall of Fame Dinner at the conference, Chief Laine accepted the award and said “I will always debate whether I am worthy of this honor to be included with the leaders of the LETR. I am most humbled to accept this honor” of induction into the Hall of Fame. He received a standing ovation from the nearly 1,200 attendees at the event.
“Chief Russ Laine is always trying to find ways to put the athletes, community or an individual’s safety first,” said Dave Breen, President & CEO of Special Olympics Illinois. “Perhaps the greatest thing I can say about Russ is that if you were to ask him, he would genuinely rather see others be honored with this prestigious award. He in undoubtedly not in it for the recognition, but for the smiles that the Torch Run creates and the undeniable impact it has on thousands of lives.”
About Special Olympics Illinois
Special Olympics Illinois is part of an international organization that unleashes the human spirit through the transformative power and joy of sports every day around the world. Through work in sports, health, education and community building, Special Olympics addresses inactivity, injustice, intolerance and social isolation by encouraging and empowering people with intellectual disabilities which leads to a more welcoming and inclusive society. Founded in 1968 in Chicago by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics movement has grown from a few hundred athletes to more than 4.2 million athletes in 170 countries. With the support of more than 40,000 coaches and volunteers, Special Olympics Illinois is able to deliver 19 Olympic-type sports and more than 170 competitions throughout the year. Visit Special Olympics Illinois at www.soill.org.
Celebrating its 32nd Anniversary in 2013, the Law Enforcement Torch Run® (LETR) for Special Olympics is the movement’s largest grass-roots fundraiser and public awareness vehicle, encompassing a variety of events including Torch Runs, Polar Plunge® events and the World’s Largest Truck Convoy® fundraiser. More than 97,000 volunteers around the world participate in LETR activities to champion acceptance and inclusion. Law enforcement officers work together with and on behalf of Special Olympics athletes to celebrate the human spirit, showcase the capabilities of people with disabilities, and to come together in a unified manner to make a positive impact on all people. The LETR is now present in all 50 U.S. states (including Illinois), 12 Canadian provinces and 46 nations around the world. Through law enforcement’s association with Special Olympics and its community and fundraising activities, the LETR raised more than $46 million for Special Olympics Programs around the world in 2012 and has raised more than $461 million since its inception in 1981. The Illinois LETR began in 1986 and is expected to raise $3 million in 2013.
Fifteen years ago, Howard Pizer, Senior Executive Vice President of the White Sox and United Center, asked Special Olympics executives a simple question: “What is the biggest impediment to having more athletes participate in Special Olympics?” The answer: “Getting families to take their children to the doctor to fill out the required Special Olympics medical application.” Pizer said, “Not a problem anymore here in Chicago. We’ll have athletes come here to the United Center to get their physicals!”
That’s how the MedFest idea was born and for 15 years has enabled thousands of Special Olympics athletes in Chicago to keep their medical applications up to date. United Center donates the space and Advocate Medical Group provides the more than 100 physicians and clinical and non-clinical staff. They are supplemented by a group of volunteers from the United Center, GE and other groups.
Dr. Rick Bones examines a Chicago athlete at the 2012 MedFest at the United Center.
Pipe and drape partitions are set up for a series of “examining” stations in the corridor of Chicago’s United Center, home of the Chicago Blackhawks and the Chicago Bulls. Dr. Rick Bone became the point person from Advocate at the beginning and he is still the Clinical Director for MedFest. “The doctors and staff of Advocate look forward to this event each year and the interaction they’re able to have with the athletes,” Dr. Bone said.
And how about the athletes? Most of the athletes are from the Chicago Public Schools. MedFest gives them a chance to see the inside of United Center where the Bulls and Hawks play. In fact, the Chicago Blackhawks are often practicing when the athletes are sitting in the arena waiting for their turn to go through the cycle at MedFest. Their visit includes not just the medical exam, but a chance to have their eyes examined free at the Special Olympics Opening Eyes area (sponsored by Lions Clubs International) where they’ll receive free glasses if needed. They also enjoy a box lunch and receive a goodie bag to take home.
The 15th annual Chicago MedFest takes place on Nov. 13 and is supported by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, GE, Advocate Medical Group and United Center. Nearly 1,500 athletes are expected to be processed that day. The Chicago MedFest has become a model for Special Olympics MedFests that now take place at locations around the world.