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Chicagoland Residents, Law Enforcement Officials to Participate in Plane Pull at O’Hare Airport

by Jeremy Davidson.

Participants Test ‘Tug-of-War’ Skills by Pulling 90-Ton Plane to Benefit Special Olympics Illinois

CHICAGO, Ill.  – Teams of local law enforcement agencies and the general public will participate in a larger than life tug-of-war challenge at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 10. They will face off with either a UPS Airbus A300 or United Airlines 737 aircraft at O’Hare International Airport for the benefit of Special Olympics Illinois. The Law Enforcement Torch Run Plane Pull includes teams from law enforcement agencies, fire departments, private companies, high schools, colleges, fraternal groups and teams of friends and family. The Opening Ceremony is at 8 a.m.

“It’s great to see people supporting Special Olympics programs in Illinois and we’re excited to see them test their strength against a 90-ton airplane,” said Matt Johnson, Special Olympics Illinois Vice President – Development & Donor Relations. “In addition to those participating in the Plane Pull, we encourage family and friends to join in the spirit by supporting their loved ones and Special Olympics programs by making a donation to Special Olympics Illinois by visiting”

Registration is now open online at

Check-in begins at 7:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 10., when team captains can turn in their donations and pick up their T-shirts and other materials. New teams can still sign up that morning.

The event will be held on the tarmac next to the United Airlines Cargo Facility located on the south airfield of O’Hare International Airport. The area is located in between two East-West parallel runways – offering a unique perspective of planes arriving and taking off on one of the world’s busiest airfields.

Teams will be divided into three different divisions – Open Division is ideal for companies, school teams, church groups, clubs, friends and families; Public Safety Division is for law enforcement officers, firefighters, EMTs, DNR, DOC and military personnel; and the Hotel Division created by popular demand. Each team of 20 will attempt to pull the plane a distance of 12 feet, with the top finisher from each division facing off for one final pull to determine the Grand Champion. To participate, each team is asked to raise a minimum of $1,000 ($50 per person) for Special Olympics Illinois. Teams raising more will be eligible for incentive prizes at the $2,500, $4,000 and $6,000 levels.

UPS and United Airlines are Presenting Sponsors of the 2016 Law Enforcement Torch Run Plane Pull. Other sponsors are Chicago Department of Aviation, City of Chicago, HMS Host, Durham School Services, Barilla Pasta, IlliniCare Health, FOX 32 Chicago, TD Ameritrade and Home Run Inn.  Because Special Olympics athletes compete free of charge, all money raised by the Plane Pull will directly assist in their training and competition.

“The Chicago Department of Aviation is honored and proud to once again partner with Special Olympics Illinois, UPS and United Airlines to host this unique and exciting community event at O’Hare International Airport,” said Ginger S. Evans, Commissioner, Chicago Department of Aviation. “I want to thank all of the volunteers and participants who come out each year to support this event and help raise funds for Special Olympics.”

All media must RSVP in advance by contacting Gregg Cunningham by phone at 773-686-3700 or by email via

The Law Enforcement Torch Run is the single largest year-round fundraising vehicle benefiting Special Olympics Illinois. The annual intrastate relay and its various fundraising projects have two goals: to raise money and to gain awareness for the athletes who participate in Special Olympics Illinois. The Law Enforcement Torch Run has raised $40 million over 30 years while increasing awareness of Special Olympics Illinois athletes and their accomplishments.

Special Olympics Illinois is a not-for-profit organization offering year-round training and competition in 19 sports for more than 22,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities and more than 20,000 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

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Alexandra McMillin, Special Olympics Illinois, 630-942-5621

Michele Evans, Special Olympics Illinois, 309-660-8497

Chicago Department of Aviation,, 773-686-3700

Corporate Sponsors, Sales Teams Ensure Success of Chicago Ducky Derby

by Jeremy Davidson.

This Aug. 4, Special Olympics Illinois will once again flood the Chicago River with 60,000 rubber ducks in support of the athletes of Special Olympics Illinois. To ensure the success of the event, we rely on corporate sponsors and sales teams.

One of the Windy City Rubber Ducky Derby sponsors, Hollister Inc., has been sponsoring the Ducky Derby since its inception.

“Special Olympics Illinois is a great organization that makes a tremendous impact on so many people across the state,” says Patrick Noble, General Manager, US Critical Care and Continence Care, Hollister Inc.

“The Windy City Rubber Ducky Derby is one of the organization’s most successful fundraisers and Hollister Inc. is proud to be a long-term sponsor of this event as well as a committed partner of Special Olympics Illinois.”

Duck adoption teams are crucial to the success of the Windy City Rubber Ducky Derby, as they account for 70 percent of the overall duck adoptions.

Duck adoption teams range from groups of friends and families to large corporations. These teams are forming throughout Illinois and compete for bragging rights and great incentive prizes.

Durham School Services has been the top corporate fundraising team for the past nine years.

“Durham School Services is proud to support Special Olympics, our No. 1 philanthropic cause,” said David A. Duke, CEO of National Express LLC, Durham’s parent company.

“Our team enjoys coming together and dedicating their time to an organization that makes a significant impact in the lives of others. The annual Rubber Ducky Derby event is one of many Special Olympics events that showcases our great team approach. We have been recognized as the top corporate sales team for the last nine years; only through our teamwork and dedication is this accomplishment possible.”

If groups or companies would like more information about getting involved, contact Shelley Chenoweth at 630-942-5619. For more information, please visit

Those interested in supporting an existing sales team should visit You can adopt a duck for $5, a Quack Pack (6 ducks for $25), a Flock of Ducks (24 ducks for $100) of new this year a Diamond Duck Pack (240 ducks for $1,000) for your chance to win one of the Windy City Rubber Ducky Derby’s great prizes including a brand new 2016 Chevy Malibu donated by Chicagoland & Northwest Indiana Chevy Dealers or an all-inclusive Apple Vacation.

The Windy City Rubber Ducky Derby is presented by Jewel Osco. Thank you to TD Ameritrade, Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, Big Ten Network, Chicago Sun-Times, Durham School Services, Dunkin’ Donuts, Fox 32 Chicago, Illinicare, Hollister, Lakeshore Recycling, 93.9 MyFM, BIG 95.5, and 103.5 KISSFM for sponsoring the event.

Chicago’s McCutcheon Elementary Students Gain Confidence

by Jeremy Davidson.

In January, McCutcheon Elementary School’s Special Olympics program participated in the Special Olympics Illinois Chicago/Area 3 North Junior and High School Basketball Skills Competition at DePaul University. Their team, coached by Erin Claxton, consists of 20 athletes between the ages of 8 and 13.

McCutcheonBasketballThe McCutcheon Elementary Special Olympics program began in 2014 with Spring Games and since then they have expanded to include basketball, soccer and softball skills.

Claxton, who grew up playing basketball in school, loved the sport and found joy in teaching it to her athletes beginning last November. “We selected the skills competition because our athletes had little knowledge of the game,” Claxton explains.

The team practices weekly in their gym, and the week prior to their competition, they held a pep rally at the school to get the excitement going for their competition. The athletes tried on their uniforms and watched the movie “Space Jam” to get extra pumped.

“A few of our athletes asked to be called Michael Jordan that week,” Claxton recalls.

Through the Special Olympics program, the McCutcheon Elementary students have had the opportunity to try new things. Claxton has seen growth in their confidence and notes that they have incredible sportsmanship.

McCutcheonSoccer2Claxton says she loves coaching because “it gives me a chance to teach valuable life lessons to our athletes.”

“They learn the sport, but more than that,” she said. “I’ve seen athletes blossom socially, build their self-esteem and learn good sportsmanship through Special Olympics. We are very grateful to have this program at our school!”

The McCutcheon Elementary Special Olympics team are currently training for a new sport. They will participate in softball skills this June in Chicago.

By Alexandra McMillin, Manager of Communications

Chicago’s Business Community is “Unified” with Special Olympics Illinois

by Jeremy Davidson.

Lawyers and bankers and consultants… oh my! On Feb. 5, an impressive group of professionals from the Chicago area who are typically busy with putting together work teams and business deals were challenged to try a whole new brand of collaboration with Unified Sports® and Special Olympics Illinois.

Several hundred employees from Capital One, Accenture, Deloitte, Resolution Life and Baxter came together for the inaugural Chicago Corporate Cup basketball tournament sponsored by the CapAbilities Network within Capital One®.


CCC 2016 Champs Res Life“Our hope with this event is that we can introduce the concept of Unified Sports to a much larger population and provide more and more opportunities for authentic inclusive experiences to local Special Olympics athletes and members of the Chicago corporate community,” said Morris Taylor, Vice President of Technology for Capital One.

Held at the Ray Meyer Fitness & Recreation Center at DePaul University, corporate players were teamed up with Special Olympics athletes from Chicago and the surrounding suburbs.  While some of the corporate participants were familiar with Special Olympics, for most this was their first opportunity to experience Unified play, and judging by the ball-handling and perpetual smiles, it was a real success. The event was a mash up of individual skill, focused teamwork and absolute joy!

Even the halftime entertainment embodied the Unified spirit. The Pep Squad from Palatine High School, whose members include students with and without intellectual disabilities, wowed the audience with their performance. The show was capped off by an enthusiastic rendition of “Rock ‘n Roll Part II” where the entire audience clapped, stomped and shouted “Hey” in unison with Palatine’s “Pirates with Exceptional Pride.”

By the end of the tournament, it was Team Resolution Life who took home the trophy after a hard-fought championship game against Deloitte. “It was great to see the event bring together employees from the different companies with Special Olympics Illinois athletes and fans,” said Kyle Stolarz, captain of the victorious team. “The sheer amount of high fives and smiles were all the evidence needed to show that the goal of inclusion was achieved.”


Team Accenture won the Fan Zone prize for having the most employees, friends and fans at the event to cheer the athletes on. In the end, everyone went home a winner after an evening of competitive basketball, a deeper understanding of teamwork and new friendships that will last long after the final buzzer.

“The Chicago Corporate Cup was an absolutely amazing experience,” said Conor Hawes of Team Deloitte. “Leading up to and throughout the event, I was constantly getting feedback from my colleagues at Deloitte about how excited they were that an event like this exists. Hopefully this excitement and support galvanizes the Chicago corporate community and creates momentum to recruit even more companies next year!”

Special Olympics Illinois extends its gratitude to the five organizations and their wonderful employees who came out to play and be our fans.  Thank you Chicago Corporate Cup!

Chicago Fire Soccer Club, SOILL Partner to Create Unified Sports Soccer Team

by Jeremy Davidson.

Special Olympics Illinois has an exciting announcement to make!  We are again partnering with the Chicago Fire Soccer Club to create a Chicago Fire Unified Soccer All Star team. This team will practice monthly at Chicago Fire training facilities and will travel with the Chicago Fire Soccer team as well as host another team here in Chicago.  The following games have been selected for participation by the Chicago Fire Unified All StarUnified Soccer Chicago Fire Logo Team:

  • Saturday, July 16, 2016 – Dallas TX vs. FC Dallas
  • Sunday, August 14, 2016 – Bridgeview, IL vs Orlando City SC

The team will be comprised of 4-5 Special Olympics Illinois Athletes, 4-5 Unified Partners and 3 Coaches. We are looking for individuals interested in serving as the coaches for this team.  We are also looking for nominations of Special Olympics Illinois Athletes and Unified Partners to participate on the team.  A school may nominate more than one set of students to participate on the team.

The clinic and tryouts for athletes and partners will be at The PrivateBank Fire Pitch on Saturday, February 20, 2016 from 4-6pm.

Coaches Applications are due to Jennifer Marcello by February 5, 2016 and we will be conducting interviews February 9, 2016 from 3-7pm at Toyota Park in Bridgeview to fill the coaching slots. Download nomination forms below.

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