About Us

Special Olympics is a global organization that unleashes the human spirit through the transformative power and joy of sport, every day around the world. Through programming in sports, health, education and community building, Special Olympics is changing the lives of people with intellectual disabilities solving the global injustice, isolation, intolerance and inactivity they face. Special Olympics Illinois provides opportunities for more than 22,500 athletes, more than 20,000 Young Athletes, 45,000 volunteers and thousands more people statewide through 18 Area programs in all 102 counties of the state.

Special Olympics began in Illinois with the first games at Soldier Field in July 1968 thanks to the efforts of Eunice Kennedy Shriver and her peers. There are now more than 4.5 million athletes in 170 countries. Special Olympics is financially sound with diverse revenue streams, a thorough annual budget process and increasing organizational revenue streams. Special Olympics Illinois does not charge athletes or their families to participate in the program.


Provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.


“Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”


  • 22,647 athletes (children and adults) with intellectual disabilities
  • 19,927 Young Athletes ages 2-7 with and without intellectual disabilities
  • 45,800 volunteers and coaches
  • 290 competitions each year
  • 17 Olympic-type sports
  • Programs in 18 Areas, each coordinated by an Area Director and a volunteer committee
  • Dynamic sports and corporate partnerships


  • REAL SPORTS: Deliver high-quality training and competition in an inclusive culture that stresses athletic excellence, rewards determination, emphasizes health and celebrates achievement.
  • ATHLETE HEALTH: Promote the overall well-being of people with intellectual disabilities via programs that ensure ongoing access to quality, community-based health care services, highlighted by free health screenings at Special Olympics competitions, games and other venues.
  • TRANSFORMATIVE EDUCATION: Equip young people and adult influencers with effective tools and training to create sports, classrooms and community actions that produce friendships and acceptance, driving positive attitude and behavioral change.
  • BUILD COMMUNITIES: Marshal resources, implement diverse programming and act as a convening power of stakeholders to drive positive attitudinal and behavioral change toward people with intellectual disabilities in communities statewide, strengthening the fabric of society

Organizational Updates


SOILL Evaluating Future Success of 3 Sports

A challenge many Special Olympics Programs face is determining when it is appropriate to add new sports. An even greater challenge presents itself when participation diminishes and Programs are confronted ...

Read More


New Staff - October 2016

The following people have joined Special Olympics Illinois: Benjamin Abels has been named Data Entry Specialist based at the Normal office. He is responsible for general data entry and management. Abels had previously ...

Read More


Revamped Format for Golf Venue at Outdoor Sports Festival

Special Olympics Illinois has formed a Golf Sports Management Team in order to enhance the golf venue at the Outdoor Sports Festival. After considering how to improve the flow of ...

Read More


New Staff - August 2016

The following people have joined Special Olympics Illinois: Marty Hickman has joined SOILL as Chief Operating Officer, based out of the Normal office. He is responsible for ensuring that the organization ...

Read More


SOILL Expanding Player Development Programming

Special Olympics Illinois will be expanding upon the Player Development pilot sports that were introduced earlier this year in specific Areas. This past spring, multiple Areas in each of SOILL’s ...

Read More


SOILL Announces New Board Members - June 2016

Special Olympics Illinois announces the election of three new members to its Board of Directors at the board's June meeting. The new board members are Jim Jacobs, Randy Schaab and Randy ...

Read More


New Staff - June 2016

The following people have joined Special Olympics Illinois: Ashley Norris has joined SOILL as the Special Projects and Events Assistant, based out of the Lombard office. Ashley will be assisting with ...

Read More

Who is eligible to participate?

To be eligible to participate in Special Olympics traditional program, one must be at least 8 years old and identified by an agency or professional as having one of the following conditions: intellectual disabilities, cognitive delays as measured by formal assessment, or significant learning or vocational problems due to cognitive delay that require or have required specially designed instruction. The Special Olympics Young Athletes program was created for children with intellectual disabilities ages 2-7.

Can individuals with profound disabilities participate in Special Olympics?

Yes, through Special Olympics Motor Activities Training Program (MATP), developed by physical educators, physical therapists and recreation therapists. MATP emphasizes training and participation rather then competition.

Are there differences between Special Olympics and Paralympics?

Yes, Special Olympics and the Paralympics are two separate and distinct organizations with specific eligibility requirements.

The Need is Great

The need for services is great as we estimate that Special Olympics Illinois is currently serving about 10 percent of those eligible to participate and is always working to increase this reach. Individual donors account for 65 percent of our donations so we rely on people just like you to ensure that we can continue reaching out to more of those in need. You can do your part to transform lives by making an online donation now!

If you have questions not answered here, please email Special Olympics Illinois.

SOILL History – Backgrounder 8-16

SOILL History – Milestones 8-16

Board Roster January 2017 No Pictures

Foundation Board Roster January 2017 No Pictures



Annual Reports