Posts Tagged “State Basketball”

Referee Makes Inspiring Return to Officiating

by Michele Evans.

John Jansky made an inspiring return to officiating at the Special Olympics Illinois State Basketball Tournament in March after an amputation sidelined him last year.

Jansky-MH9721-fullJansky, who has officiated at Special Olympics Illinois basketball competitions for about 30 years, had his lower left leg amputated on Feb. 17, 2012, after complications from a broken ankle. While he couldn’t officiate at last year’s state tournament, he did make the trip to Normal in mid-March to watch games from a wheelchair.

He vowed then that he’d be back in 2013. Little did we know that he’d be back officiating on the courts a little over a year after losing his leg below the knee!

Sitting out for a little over  a year with various complications and seven surgeries, Jansky admitted he really missed the Special Olympics community. “I consider Special Olympics a part of my family,” he said.

After visiting the state hoops tournament as a spectator in 2012, he received a giant card of well-wishes from Special Olympics athletes, coaches, families and staff, plus fellow officials. “I hadn’t cried through the whole process, but when I got that card, I broke down,” he said. “I realized that everyone really cared about me.”

This year, Jansky was back sporting a high-tech prosthetic leg and officiated at 9 games over the 3-day tournament. He admitted he was sore and tired, but would not have missed the opportunity to officiate at the Special Olympics tournament.

Inspiration to others

Jansky-JD9554Jansky’s recovery has been speedy and an inspiration for others. He led all basketball officials at the State Basketball Tournament in reciting the Officials Oath at the Opening Ceremonies.

He has visited an amputees support group, telling them that anything they had been able to do before, they could do in a wheelchair. The basketball and softball official has returned to work in maintenance at the Jewel store in Melrose Park, where he has worked for 24 years and received Employee of the Month award twice.

Jansky has been a fixture at district and state basketball tournaments for more than 3 decades. “He has recruited officials, trained others and basically has covered hundreds of games for us in those years,” said Amy Kaylor, Manager of Sports & Competition, SOILL Far West Suburban/Area 2. “In all of those years, I can’t remember him missing a tournament – district or state – until the past 2 years with his leg issues.”

“He heart of gold, leg of titanium and a willingness to do whatever it takes to make sure our athletes have officials for their games.” said Kaylor.

By Michele Evans Henson, Director of Communications

Eisenmengers a Triple Threat in SOILL Sports

by Michele Evans.

Athletes Kailey, Ashley and Emily Eisenmenger have grown in their abilities through Special Olympics Illinois by supporting each other not only as sisters, but as triplets. The girls, 16, are juniors at Unity High School and compete in basketball, softball and athletics with Champaign-Urbana Special Recreation (CUSR).

Ashley was the first to join Special Olympics seven years ago. Then, Kailey followed suit two years later. Since the other two were having so much fun, Emily decided to get involved as well in 2009. Their mom, Amy, said, “Special Olympics was a way to compete and have fun in a safe environment. It lets them be in competition with more than just each other.” The biggest takeaways for the girls in Amy’s eyes are the social components and learning relationship management with other team members.

Family Affair

Special Olympics is a family affair for the Eisenmengers. Luckily for their father and basketball coach, Matt, the girls all get along really well. “They all have areas they are good at,” said Matt. “Emily is more of our all-around player. Kailey is the ball handler; and Ashley serves as the post player.”


Like most sibling dynamics, the Eisenmengers admit to being pretty competitive with one another. If they race against each other, they push even harder to make themselves – and their sisters – better. Younger brother, Alex, 14, plays basketball against his sisters in the driveway to give them defensive tips. The girls said they let him win … sometimes. “They always support me when I play,” said Alex, “and I like to come out and see them compete.”

The girls gain support outside of school and the home through their second family in the diverse CUSR basketball team.  “We started three years ago being a little rough around the edges,” said Matt. “Now we won first place at state. The team has improved so much together.” The team scrimmaged against Parkland College’s Lady Cobras earlier in the season and received a lot of Facebook support for the State Basketball Tournament from the collegiate players.

Outside Interests

With a state victory in the books, the triplets are focusing on other endeavors. Mom Amy is on triple dress-searching duty as the girls prepare for their first prom. Ashley was training for the Illinois Half Eisenmengers-MH9617Marathon on April 27. She wanted to run the race because she said, “I’m big on pushing my limits and reaching goals.” In addition to playing two games at the State Basketball Tournament, she ran 10 miles that weekend to prepare for the race.

Emily recently received her driver’s license. “It’s exciting but terrifying as with any 16-year-old,” said Amy. An extra driver will surely come in handy as the girls continue their socially active lifestyles and grow in independence.

All three girls plan on going to college once they graduate in 2014. Kailey wants to go into physical therapy, Emily plans on going into nursing and Ashley wants to do therapeutic recreation or teaching. They became interested in service professions through being in many therapeutic programs as they were growing up.

By Lindsey Probst, Communications Intern

Let’s Chip In to Help Student Win Contest

by Jeremy.

ISU Student Selected for Lay’s Contest

Tyler-frontWhen Tyler Raineri, 21, of Lake Zurich, entered a contest on Facebook to suggest a new flavor for Lays potato chips, he never thought he’d actually be selected as a finalist.

But, late last year he got a call telling him that as one of three final flavors he had already won $50,000 and he could win $1 million if his Sriracha-flavored chips wins the Lays Do Us a Flavor contest! “It’s like winning the lottery,” he said.

Wants to Give Back to Special Olympics Illinois

Raineri, a junior construction management major at Illinois State University in Normal, has a 14-year-old cousin, David of Downers Grove, who competes in Special Olympics basketball and equestrian programs through SEASPAR and the Hanson Center. Because of that connection, Tyler Raineri has pledged that he will donate a portion of his winnings to Special Olympics Illinois.

“We are thrilled that Tyler is a finalist in the Lays Do us a Flavor contest and is interested in giving back to Special Olympics Illinois,” said Dave Breen, SOILL President & CEO. “Tyler is a great example of the generous spirit and leadership of the next generation. His attitude and leadership will benefit Special Olympics in many ways.”

Raineri was on hand for the Friday-night festivities at the recent SOILL State Basketball Tournament in Normal, where David competed with the SEASPAR Sharks. Tyler Raineri told the audience of junior and high school-age players (plus their coaches and parents) what they could do to help spread the word about his spicy flavor.

How to Vote

LaysBagThere are 5 ways people can vote daily (once per platform) through May 4 to Save Sriracha:

  1. Visit the lays Facebook page ( and click on the Do Us a Flavor icon.
  2. Via Twitter using the hashtag #SaveSriracha
  3. Text “VOTE” to 24477 (CHIPS) and replying with “LAYS2”
  4. Facebook page of Target (
  5. Facebook page of Winn Dixie (

Tyler Credits Family for Flavor Suggestion

Tyler Raineri's Family at State Basketball

Tyler Raineri’s Family at
State Basketball

Raineri’s flavor entry was one of 3.8 million originally submitted. He acknowledges that there were other Sriracha suggestions, but believes his motivations behind the flavor helped him stand out. “My grandmother used to make us homemade chips and we’d dip them in Sriracha.”

Family is clearly an important part of Raineri’s life as evidenced by the pride he exhibited at seeing his cousin David in his element at the State Basketball Tournament. This was David’s first year playing basketball and his parents, Don and Wally Raineri, proudly videotaped his games and the cousins’ appearance at Friday night’s ceremony and activities.

David began competing in Special Olympics equestrian competition when he was 8 years old, said his mother. His physical therapist suggested Hansen Center’s horseback therapy program when David was 4 years old. The 7th-grader has attended state equestrian competition for many years.

Tyler’s uncle, Don Raineri, said the family was pleasantly surprised when they heard  Tyler mention that he had earmarked part of his winnings for Special Olympics Illinois during an interview. “I will definitely hold him to that promise,” Don said with a chuckle.

The Winner Will be Announced on May 6

When asked how he’s doing in the contest so far, Tyler Raineri said “I won’t have any idea how I’m doing in the voting until they make the final announcement” on May 6.   He’ll be in attendance at the announcement in Hollywood, hoping to hear his flavor announced the winner of the Lays contest.

“It’s basically a popularity contest like American Idol,” he said. “I just hope people vote to Save Sriracha.”

By Michele Evans Henson, Director of Communications

The three Lay's finalists

The three Lay’s finalists

Athletes Triumph at State Basketball Tournament

by Michele Evans.

NORMAL, Ill. – Special Olympics Illinois crowned its state champions at the State Basketball Tournament March 15-17 at Illinois State University’s Horton Field House, Normal, and Illinois Wesleyan University’s Shirk Center, Bloomington. More than 1,600 athletes competed on 136 teams and in individual skills competition at the tournament. View results.

Athletes participated in five categories of play and were divisioned within each category based on their age and skill level:

  • Senior/Male: 62 teams including at least one male player 16 years or older
  • Female: 23 all-female teams with players 16 years or older
  • High School: 34 teams with players of high school age
  • Junior: 17 teams including male and female players under the age of 16
  • Individual Skills: About 265 athletes tested their abilities in dribbling, passing and shooting
  • Young Athletes: 11 Young Athletes aged 6-7 demonstrated their individual skills abilities

To compete in the state tournament, athletes must have completed eight weeks of training. Senior/Male and High School teams qualified through district tournaments in the state.

As Official Partners of Special Olympics Illinois, the Illinois Knights of Columbus and the Law Enforcement Torch Run were Gold Medal Sponsors of the Basketball Tournament. Special Olympics Illinois is honored to partner with the Shirk Family Foundation in delivering our annual State Basketball Tournament.

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 or call 800-394-0562.


Barbara DiGuido, 630-942-5610
Michele Henson, 309-888-2573