Area News – January 2016

Area 3

Chicago/Area 3 Welcomes Back Alpine Skiing

Amundsen High School skiers and coaches
Amundsen High School skiers and coaches

Alpine skiing is arguably one of the most difficult sports offered through Special Olympics Illinois and earlier this month SOILL Chicago/Area 3 athletes were up for the challenge.

For the first time in many years, Area 3 hosted the Chicago Alpine Skiing Qualifier in Galena, which boasted 42 athletes from 10 park district locations and two Chicago Public Schools – including approximately 20 new skiers.

The volunteers at the event were recruited from the Winter Games volunteer pool and couldn’t have been more excited about the event.  Athlete Bill Braasch from McGuane Park was greeted on the top of the hill by volunteer Mark Van Osdel with a huge cheer after Van Osdel recognized him from many past Winter Games.

Bessemer Park and Amundsen High School athletes made the slopes look easy. Read More

Area 6

Mother, Son Enjoy First-Time Volunteer Experience

My son, Lex, and I volunteered for the first time with the Special Olympics Illinois. I’ve done some volunteering in the past with other organizations, but got busy with motherhood and my career. Now that my son is 10 years old, I decided a while back that I needed to share the experience of volunteering with him in the future. So, this past Sunday we volunteered with SOILL at the District E Basketball Tournament at the Shirk Center in Bloomington.

We had an AWESOME experience. I shared a couple of photos over Twitter and received a response that I should share more with you. My son and I volunteered to work the lunch shift. I am a team lead at my day job (at State Farm Insurance Companies) and found it a lot of fun to use that experience to lead some of the other volunteers we were paired up with. It is hard to turn that off and I think it came in handy. So, that was really enjoyable for me. I also feel like my son and I got to meet SO many people because hundreds came through our Avanti’s lunch “assembly line.” That was such a joy. And, even though my son was away from his video games for hours on Sunday, he mentioned several times how much fun he was having.

I asked him to commit to looking for a volunteer opportunity with me through your organization every month or every other month. We definitely want to help again in the future. I’m sure you have heard this before and it sounds slightly cliché, but you definitely do get more back than you give. I just can’t say enough about how full my heart was when we left!

Thank you for the opportunity!

Amanda Akers, Morton

Area 9

Eastern Illinois University Vital to Success of Area 9

Retired Eastern Illinois University President William Perry with Alpha Sigma Alpha members on the Area 9 Spring Games Committee
Retired Eastern Illinois University President William Perry with Alpha Sigma Alpha members on the Area 9 Spring Games Committee

Most people envision the obvious Spring Games at Eastern Illinois University in early May when they discuss Special Olympics, but EIU participates in Special Olympics events throughout the year, including Special Olympics Family Festival (September), Volleyball (September), Basketball (October-February), the Polar Plunge (February), Young Athletes Programs (fall & spring), and track & field trainings with athletes and coaches (March).

Special Olympics needs Eastern Illinois University support, and not just to help run the day-of competitions, but also for their ideas, strengths in areas I lack, and means of outreach.  Eastern students and faculty have been pertinent members of the planning committees and have taken on roles as key volunteers for many of the Area 9 events. Read More

Area 15

DuQuoin Indoor Softball Tournament a Success

The 7th Annual Girls Winter Indoor Softball Tournament at the Southern Illinois Center in DuQuoin had 28 softball teams compete from Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky and Indiana Jan. 15-17. The teams competed in the following age groups: 12 & under, 14 & under and 16 & under and were guaranteed at least 3 games in the double-elimination tournament. The tournament raised $58,000 for SOILL Southern/Area 15. View photos from the tournament.

The winning teams included:

  • 16u 1st place: Heartland Kids
  • 16u 2nd place: Dirt Dawgs
  • 14u 1st place: P-Town Fastpitch
  • 14u 2nd place: Lady Crushers
  • 12u 1st place: Bomb Squad
  • 12u 2nd place: Derby City Crush
98 Black Widows at last year's tournament
’98 Black Widows at last year’s tournament

For some teams, this tournament is more than about winning. The ’98 Black Widows from Litchfield had competed multiple times in past tournaments, but since the girls aged up, they are no longer eligible to compete in the tourney. However, that doesn’t stop the players from keeping in touch with the Special Olympic athlete they were paired up when they did compete. Black Widow coach Will Law said that the tournament “transformed the girls into 18-year-old competitive, but compassionate, college softball ladies.”

American Idol contender Amelia Eisenhauer performed a private concert for the Special Olympics athletes in attendance on Feb. 16. Eisenhauer auditioned for American Idol in Atlanta in September 2015 and received a golden ticket to continue the competition in Hollywood. She is still in the competition.

The Beaver Rice Memorial Boys Baseball Wood Bat Winter Indoor Classic will be Jan. 29-31 at the Southern Illinois Center in DuQuoin and is also a fundraiser for Southern/Area 15.