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®.
“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!