Area News – May 2015

Area 1

Belvidere Athlete Follows in Sister’s Track and Field Footsteps

Belvidere native Jack Seger loves to jump. He competed in the Special Olympics track and field meet at Harlem High School May 2, where he specializes in the long jump event.

Jack Seger with his sister and parents
Jack Seger with his sister and parents

“Jack, from a young age, when he was asleep was when he stopped moving,” Jack’s dad, Dan Seger, said. “He’s always had a lot of energy. He’s always been moving. He’s very coordinated and he was always jumping.”

“With his ability to jump, the long jump just seemed like a natural choice for him,” Jack’s mom, Lisa Seger, said. 

Jack is autistic and has competed in the track and field Special Olympics for seven years. He’s been to the state Summer Games in Normal four times. Participating in track and field helps Jack connect with other teenagers.

Track and field is a family thing for the Segers. Jack’s sister Kim runs track and cross country at the University of Illinois. Jack is always supporting his big sister. Read More. View photos from Area 1 Spring Games

Areas 2 & 5

General Mills Volunteers Key to Area 2/5 Spring Games

On Sunday, April 26, an estimated 750 Special Olympics Illinois athletes competed in athletics (track & field) at the Area 2/5 Spring Games at North Central College in Naperville.

Rick Hernandez and other General Mills volunteers
Rick Hernandez and other General Mills volunteers

This event wouldn’t be possible without the generous support from volunteers like Rick and Sharon Hernandez. Rick and Sharon, who are a part of the General Mills Community Action Council, have championed a group of 20 co-workers and friends to volunteer at Spring Games for years.

This group runs a softball throw area as well as awards. They have even developed (and perfected) their own color coding system to help the Games run smoothly.

Despite their efficiency, they run a little behind schedule each year because of the care and time put forth making the athletes’ day a special one. Rick says, “I always tell my volunteers that if we can make their day special, then I guarantee that they will make our day special.” Read More. View photos from Area 2/5 Spring Games

Area 3

Special Smiles: A Pleasant Environment For Athletes to See Dentist

Back in the early 1990s, Dr. Steve Perlman, DDS, at Boston University, cared for special needs patients who needed extensive dental work. He wondered what could be done to prevent those with intellectual disabilities from dental rehabilitation and from that the Special Olympics Special Smiles idea was born.

Dr. Fred examines an athlete's teeth at Chicago/Area 3 Spring Games
Dr. Fred Margolis examines an athlete’s teeth at Chicago/Area 3 Spring Games

Dr. Perlman later called Dr. Fred Margolis, DDS, and asked him to run the Chicago branch of the Special Smiles program. Twenty-two years later, Dr. Margolis and his co-chair Dr. Ricardo Mendoza, DDS, coordinate the Special Smiles program for one day during SOILL Chicago/Area 3’s Spring Games. More than 100 volunteers set up in a park across from Eckersall Stadium.

The Special Olympics Special Smiles program provides comprehensive oral health care information, including free dental screenings from dentists and dental students and residents. Dental hygienists give instructions on correct brushing and flossing techniques to participating Special Olympics athletes. Read More. View photos from Chicago/Area 3 Spring Games

Area 7

Thornwood High School Has Long History With SOILL

2015Area7SG-SD153-006On Saturday, May 2, more than 800 Special Olympics Illinois athletes competed in athletics (track & field) at the South Cook-Will/Area 7 Spring Games. This event wouldn’t have been possible without the generous support from the host Thornwood High School. The school has been involved with Special Olympics Illinois for more than 16 years, starting with just a track and field team and growing into a program that offers 13 sports with support from more than 20 coaches.

Special Olympics Athletic Director Mary Wimmer feels Special Olympics has provided incomparable opportunities for their students. “Here at Thornwood, our athletes aren’t just ‘special’ athletes – they are Thornwood athletes!” She continues, “We receive the same accolades, if not more, as all the other sports teams involved at school.” Read MoreView photos from Area 7 Spring Games

Area 9

It’s the Best Little Dam Run in Illinois

On April 4, Illinois State Police District 12 hosted the 17th Annual Lake Sara Dam Run and raised $4,000 to benefit Special Olympics Illinois.

More than 625 runners and walkers joined at the Lake Sara Pavilion to participate in the 8-mile run, the 5K run and the 5K walk. Although 5K runs and walks are common, the Lake Sara Dam Run has a unique 8-mile run. “The run was originally started as a fundraiser for the Effingham DUI Taskforce to raise awareness about the legal limit for driving under the influence of alcohol, 0.08,” said Ruth Rhodes, the run’s organizer and one of the founders. “We thought 8 miles would be different and draw interest in the run.  After a few years of hosting the event, the DUI Taskforce of Effingham County was no longer needed, so we agreed to donate the proceeds to Special Olympics.”

DamRun2The Illinois State Police have always been active in the planning, preparations and day-of volunteer needs to ensure that the Lake Sara Dam Run is truly the best little Dam Run in Illinois. Nearly 90 percent of the volunteers were retired Illinois State Police, said Rhodes.

Special Olympics athletes from the Effingham County Lightning team have volunteered at the Lake Sara Dam Run for the past 15 years by manning the water stations on the courses to encourage the runners and walkers, hand out water, and cheer on fans and friends as they proceed. Read More

Area 10

After 3 Decades Competing, Duo Still Looks Forward to Spring Games

Twins Jean and Jan Finn, 51, of Lincoln looked forward to competing in the Special Olympics Illinois Central/Area 10 games – something they’ve been doing for nearly 30 years.

Jean and Jan Finn
Jean and Jan Finn

The twins, who live independently together in their own home, are very involved with Special Olympics. They compete in athletics (track and field), T-ball, basketball and have Plunged at the Lincoln Polar Plunge for the past nine years.

They practice once a week with about 10 other athletes from Lincoln Park District on Sunday afternoons. “At practice, we work on handing off the baton, walk, run and standing long jump,” said Jean. They have won multiple gold medals during Spring Games in the past, and they hoped their hard work pays off in gold again this year and that they would advance to Summer Games in Normal in June. Read More

Area 12

St. Louis Rams Team Up With Special Olympics For Punt, Pass & Kick

St. Louis Rams players Cody Davis and Johnny Hekker tackle a participant at the Punt Pass and Kick event
St. Louis Rams players Cody Davis and Johnny Hekker tackle a participant at the Punt Pass and Kick event

McKendree University and the St. Louis Rams hosted a Punt, Pass and Kick competition for the athletes of Special Olympics Illinois and Missouri on April 19. Rams punter Johnny Hekker and Rams safety Cody Davis started the event by showing off their Punt, Pass and Kick abilities before leading stations with the assistance of McKendree University football players. A total of 53 Special Olympics athletes from Illinois and Missouri took to the football field showing grit and determination to win the gold!

“Without the gracious help of all the volunteers this event would not be possible. The St. Louis Rams players were extremely outgoing and interactive with everyone involved and McKendree University football players stepped up and played a pivotal role in the success of the competition,” said Justin Dunning, Special Olympics Illinois Southern Regional Manager of Sports Training and Competition. “Special Olympics is a remarkable human services organization which capitalizes on the tremendous attributes of amateur sports to help children and adults with intellectual disabilities in day-to-day living. This event allowed Special Olympics athletes the chance to shine!” Read More. View photos from Area 12 Spring Games