2013 Lifetime Service Award
Joe Peña Named Lifetime Service Award Winner
Ignacio “Joe” Peña of Channahon has been named winner of 2013 Special Olympics Illinois Lifetime Service Award. He was honored at a reception held on June 14 before the Special Olympics Illinois Summer Games Opening Ceremonies at Illinois State University in Normal.
Lifetime Service Award Criteria
The Special Olympics Illinois Lifetime Service award is given to an outstanding individual who encompasses the spirit of Special Olympics Illinois and has shown their dedication to the organization and to serving its mission and goals. Awards are given based on nominee’s interest in and support of the abilities and accomplishments of SO ILL athletes as demonstrated through significant contributions. The individual also needs to have at least 20 years of service with Special Olympics Illinois.
Involvement in the Law Enforcement Torch Run
Peña became involved in the Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) for Special Olympics Illinois in 1986. As a liaison for the East Dundee Police Department and runner for Leg 13, he took great pride in running at least 26 miles of the 32-mile route in Kane County. He was also a member of the first SUPER Plunge team, where individuals plunge into the frigid waters of Lake Michigan once an hour, every hour, for 24 hours straight to raise money for Special Olympics Illinois.
In 1995, Peña was called to lead the Illinois LETR program and serve as the state’s Torch Run Director. Through Peña’s hard work and vision, the program reached the goal of raising $1 million in 2002. Just four years later, it raised more than $2 million. In the fall of 2011, Peña resigned from his role of the Illinois Torch Run Director, but he is still an important part of the LETR and Special Olympics movements.
He has been an active participant in the Law Enforcement Torch Run not only in Illinois, but also on the international level. Peña served on the International LETR Executive Council for many years, was a runner for the LETR Final Leg for the Special Olympics World Games in Ireland in 2003, Alaska in 2001, North Carolina in 1999 and Toronto in 1997. He served as a support team member for the 2006 Special Olympics National Games in Ames, Iowa, in 2006. Peña was inducted into the Law Enforcement Torch Run Hall of Fame in 1997.
Representative for the Athletes and Law Enforcement
Peña is not only concerned with raising money for the athletes, but has made it his goal to make sure law enforcement is represented at Special Olympics events throughout the state. He has spent countless hours traveling and speaking on behalf of the athletes of Special Olympics Illinois. Peña’s recruitment efforts to reach more departments and officers have resulted in a stronger support base of law enforcement working together to grow the cause of Special Olympics.
Peña retired in 2006 from the East Dundee Police Department after more than 30 years on the force, including 20 years as the Chief of Police. Peña was elected President of the Illinois Chiefs of Police Association in 2006. He served as Channahon Police Chief from 2007-2012 and currently is Channahon Village Manager, a post he’s held since January 2012.
Peña and his wife, Leona, are the parents of two sons and one daughter.