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Chicago Fire

by Jeremy.

The Chicago Fire is highlighting their partnership with Special Olympics Illinois by introducing the Special Olympics Illinois Unified All Star Team during the half time of their game vs. DC United.

A portion of all tickets sales on this date will be donated to Special Olympics Illinois. The Chicago Fire have significantly increased their involved with Special Olympics this year and this is our chance to show our support!

To purchase tickets visit: http://www.chicago-fire.com/specialolympics

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Chicago Fire, SOILL Introduce Members of Unified Soccer All-Star Team

by Michele Evans.

The Chicago Fire and Special Olympics Illinois introduced on April 3 members of the inaugural Unified Soccer All-Star team, a squad composed of Illinois-based teens with and without intellectual disabilities.

Selected were Special Olympics Illinois athlete Joshua Banty and Unified Partner Andy Torres of School District 23; athletes Mackenzie Carlson and Nathan Simmons and Partner Brenna Poncin of Normal Community West High School; athlete Adam Letcher and Partner Gerardo Valencia of Hoffman Estates High School; athlete Ryan McDonough of Waubonsie Valley High School; and athlete Warren Richards and Partner Jared Joekstra of Homewood-Flossmoor High School.

ChicagoFirePractice6130Over the next four months, the team will train together in preparation for a matchup with Special Olympics Oregon, which will be held in conjunction with the Chicago Fire First Team’s Aug. 7 road match at Portland Timbers.

With more than half a million participants worldwide, Unified Sports initiatives seek to break down stereotypes in a fun and empowering athletic environment. Unified Sports soccer matches feature 5 a side competition, with each side represented by three athletes and two Partners.

“Special Olympics Illinois is grateful to the Chicago Fire Soccer Club for allowing our athletes the opportunity to compete on the same stage as their professional athletes,” said Jen Marcello, Director of Young Athletes with Special Olympics Illinois. “Through the Unified Soccer All-Star Team we are thrilled to showcase the abilities of athletes both with and without intellectual disabilities and strive to drive home the importance of sportsmanship, respect and teamwork.”

On March 28, candidates from around Chicagoland and Central Illinois turned out to The PrivateBank Fire Pitch to participate in tryouts. Athletes were put through their paces by a coaching staff comprised of Paul Cadwell, Chicago Fire Director of Soccer and Team Development, and Special Olympics Unified Coaches David Dore of Homewood-Flossmoor High School and Julie Phelan of Hoffman Estates High School.

Following tryouts, the coaching staff named a team of six athletes and four Partners, who came together for their first official practice April 11 at Toyota Park. The group will receive training from Fire players and coaches as well as Special Olympics instructors throughout their preparations.

In addition to their August road trip to Portland, the Unified Sports team also will be recognized in a special send-off event during the Fire’s June 24 home match against D.C. United.

View additional information on the Special Olympics Unified Sports program.

SOILL Athlete Speaks at 2015 LDA Conference in Chicago

by Michele Evans.

On Feb. 19, Daniel Smrokowski, 26, of LaGrange spoke at the 2015 Learning Disabilities Association Conference at the Hilton Chicago Hotel. Daniel was born a ‘micro-premie’ and was diagnosed with learning disabilities and a speech disorder early in his life.

He has dealt with a lot of developmental challenges his whole life, but has never let these challenges stand in the way of his goals and his dreams. Daniel graduated from Roosevelt University, Chicago, in 2012 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism and was the recipient of the 2012 Matthew Freeman Award for Social Justice for his continuing efforts via media and reporting to give people with disabilities a voice.

DanielwithMicrophoneWhile in college, Daniel developed his own podcast called Special Chronicles. The purpose of the podcasts was to give a voice and respect to people with a disability. He started podcasting in 2008 while at Roosevelt University as a way to inform and inspire listeners about people with special needs. Since then, “Special Chronicles” has grown to be a non-profit company with a large listener base and broad support group. Podcasting has allowed Daniel to reach out to a global community of listeners.

Over the past six years, through his speeches as a Global Messenger (ambassador for Special Olympics) and through his writings and podcasts, Daniel has highlighted various significant topics including disability awareness and education for people with autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and learning disabilities. He has done numerous speeches and podcasts on the “R-word” and respect, telling his own story of bullying and challenging times during his childhood.

Daniel has reached out to Special Olympics leadership such as Tim Shriver, Chairman of Special Olympics; Janet Froetscher, CEO of Special Olympics; Rob Johnson, CBS-2 Chicago; Caroline Shriver and many other community advocates, leaders and experts on individuals with a disability. Additionally, Daniel has interviewed countless individuals with varying special needs, giving them a chance to share their story and inspire others through their determination and perseverance. To learn more about Daniel and listen or subscribe to his podcasts, visit his website – specialchronicles.com.

Chicago’s Lindblom Academy Sends Duo to Winter Games for Snowshoeing

by Michele Evans.

Malik Daniel and Nathaniel Clark have participated in Special Olympics Illinois since they were in elementary school. Nearly 8 years later, Malik, a junior, and Nathaniel, a senior at Lindblom Math and Science Academy in Chicago, will compete in snowshoeing at the 2015 Special Olympics Illinois Winter Games.

This is the first year Lindblom Eagles Head Coach Raymond Baker can remember having a snowshoeing team from the Englewood neighborhood. Baker has been involved with Special Olympics for 10 years and has been head coach at Lindblom for 4 of those.

“My athletes and I were looking to get involved in Special Olympics winter sports and snowshoeing seemed to be the most approachable,” Baker said. “We were lucky enough to get a pair of snowshoes donated to use from a fellow teacher/coach and the rest is history.”

Lindblom Academy sent 7 athletes to District Snowshoeing in December

Lindblom Academy sent 7 athletes, including Malik Daniel and Nathaniel Clark, to the Chicago snowshoeing qualifier in December

This year, seven Lindblom athletes competed in the snowshoe qualifier on Dec. 13 at Mann Park.

Both Malik and Nathaniel had previously found success competing in athletics for Special Olympics, and Baker feels the track events lent themselves to a natural progression into snowshoeing. “They had never seen snowshoeing as a sport before,” Baker explained. “I’m very proud of what both they both have accomplished to advance to Winter Games.”

The boys also compete on the Lindblom Eagles basketball team that recently qualified for the State Basketball Tournament in Normal in March.

Malik and Nathaniel anxiously awaited Winter Games, where they joined nearly 400 athletes from across the state in Galena for competition, festivities and fun Feb. 3 to 5. Malik received a gold medal and Nathaniel a 6th place ribbon in the 100-meter snowshoe race.

“I am excited for Winter Games,” Nathaniel said before heading to Galena. “I am looking forward to seeing all of my friends!”

By Alexandra McMillin, Manager of Communications