How This Special Olympics Illinois Athlete Builds Physical and Financial Wellness
SOILL and IL ABLE Partner On & Off Field to Help Families
When 21-year-old Special Olympics Illinois (SOILL) Global Messenger Michael Williams collaborated on an Autism Awareness Month video, he was filling pandemic time to build communications skills while waiting to return to in-person SOILL competition. “Michael is not as interested in the virtual activities, so he is looking forward to entering more Special Olympics events in-person,” said Dawn Williams, Michael’s mom and coach of several of Michael’s teams.
Dawn also coaches Michael to build and strengthen other life areas that he will need as an adult, including having an IL ABLE account. IL ABLE accounts are savings and investment accounts that Special Olympics Illinois athletes and their families can open to save for disability expenses while preserving benefits such as SSI and Medicaid. “Our plan is to let the funds in the IL ABLE account build over the years,” said Dawn. “So, he will have money for any big purchases or for his later-in-life years when his support needs might change.”
Like Michael and Dawn, a year into the pandemic, many SOILL families have gotten creative to find ways off- the-field and off-the-court to keep building skills and independence in other life areas. That’s why IL ABLE and Special Olympics Illinois have teamed up and are proud to announce IL ABLE as the Official Families Network Partner, there to help the more than 23,100 Special Olympics Illinois athletes and their families as they build both physical wellbeing through SOILL sports and financial wellbeing through IL ABLE.
Many virtual and in-person awareness and learning activities are planned, including webinars and IL ABLE resource tables at the 2022 Winter and Summer Games. Plan to attend and learn more! You’ll find events information throughout the year here on soill.org and at illinoisable.com.
Meanwhile, Michael has returned to work part-time at the Hope Café in the Springfield area. “He is depositing his work checks directly into the IL ABLE account and he has the checking account option,” Dawn said. By putting his paychecks into his IL ABLE account instead of a regular checking account, Michael protects his SSI benefits. (Learn more here).
Michael is also building another life skill – learning how to drive! He has his driving permit and hopes to get his driver’s license after more practice on the road, according to Dawn. Expenses related to learning to drive are a good example of the types of expenses that a tax-free IL ABLE account can be used to pay for. (Learn more here).
That’s not all. Michael moved back home from a group residence during the pandemic and, with the support of parents and siblings, the transition went well. So well, in fact, that the family is planning for a future that might include supported living. “Now that I am back to work in-person teaching and his siblings are back to living their lives, Michael is still doing well living at home,” Dawn said. “We are very excited about his progress and his new venture in successfully learning to drive. These are all great steps in increasing his independence and building his future.” (Did we mention that home and housing expenses are another area that could be covered with funds from an IL ABLE account?)
As Michael, Dawn, and all of the SOILL families return to in-person SOILL events, IL ABLE will be cheering them on toward the finish line.