On May 3, nearly 500 athletes competed in athletics (track and field) at the 2015 Northeastern/Area 13 Special Olympics Illinois Spring Games. Families and volunteers packed Lake Zurich High School to cheer on these fierce competitors. Among this these athletes were the Wilmette Community Special Olympics Stars.
Wilmette Community Special Olympics added athletics to the program for the 2013-14 school year. Now, one year later, 14 athletes participated in the Area 13 Spring Games.
The team was awarded a mix of 26 gold, silver and bronze medals and 9 of the athletes earned the chance to compete in the 2015 Special Olympics Illinois State Summer Games. These Games will be held June 12-14 in Bloomington-Normal.
In addition to competing in the Spring Games, the Wilmette Stars have been hard at work fundraising for the Special Olympics Unified Relay Across America presented by Bank of America. They will join the relay when it passes through Chicago in June. Currently, their team has raised more than $10,000.
“We have a wonderful community which backs our children, parents who jump in and rally for their kids and kind people who feel they want to give back and volunteer,” says Jane Westendorf, Athletic Director for Wilmette Community Special Olympics.
The team, comprised of Special Olympics athletes, family members and coaches, will have run in two legs of the Unified Relay.
Christine Moran, who was instrumental in driving the Wilmette Stars’ Unified Relay efforts, has a son, Matthew, on the team. “We moved to Wilmette in 2009 and it’s just been such a great experience,” Christine says. “We’ve had a great experience with the schools, teachers and programs like Special Olympics.”
Matthew competes in basketball and won two gold medals at the Area 13 Spring Games for the 50-yard run and softball throw. He is also currently the top fundraiser for the Wilmette Stars and the Moran family will be running alongside him in the Unified Relay.
“It’s such a good feeling to see the community rallying around our kids. It’s awesome.”
The Unified Relay gives anyone in the country a chance to carry the Flame of Hope that will be lit in Athens, Greece, and help deliver it to Los Angeles for the Special Olympics World Summer Games. Over the course of 46 days, in a hand-to-hand exchange, thousands of participants will run, walk or bike a segment of the relay in this team and individual fundraising event as it passes through all 50 states via 3 routes. The relay will culminate at the Opening Ceremony of the 2015 World Games in Los Angeles on July 25.
If you’d like to support the Wilmette Stars or another Illinois Unified Relay team, please click here.
The Unified Relay travels through Illinois via two routes. The Central Route will pass through Southern Illinois June 8 and 9 and the Northern Route will come through Chicago June 12 through 14. All Unified Relay participants must register and fundraise by May 25. For more information and to register, please visit www.soill.org/unified-relay.