Birds of a Feather: Brothers and Basketball

Since Ethan Gowaski could dribble a basketball, he has been involved with Special Olympics Illinois. From then on, Ethan and his family have been impacted by the organization in several ways.

Basketball is undoubtedly Ethan’s favorite sport. Ethan’s team has qualified to go to State Basketball multiple times in the past and his family looks forward to watching him play in front of the big crowds – especially his brother Alex. 

One of Alex’s favorite things to do when he is home from college is act as the play-by-play announcer while Ethan dribbles and shoots around on the driveway.

A favorite memory of Alex’s is Ethan making the game-winning shot at a game. During the ‘pack-the-house’ event, Ethan had the ball and made the buzzer-beater as the crowd went wild. Ethan then pointed directly to where his family was watching from the stands and pumped his fist into the air. For the brothers, that picture perfect moment had been practiced – and would continue to be recreated – in their driveway over and over again. 

More than anything, Ethan’s involvement with SOILL makes Alex proud to be his brother. While playing, Ethan will look into the crowd to make sure that his brother is watching. His family enjoys watching Ethan compete as his love and dedication for the sport grows.

Alex knew he wanted to become more involved after seeing how much happiness being a SOILL athlete brought to Ethan and his teammates. He did so by becoming the Chicago Ducky Derby intern in 2019. Alex says that his involvement with Special Olympics Illinois has only made the two closer. Alex and Ethan were able to work together on fundraising for the event. Ethan enjoyed spending with his brother, especially when Alex would wear the Splash mascot costume at sales events. 

Alex recalls his favorite part of working with Special Olympics Illinois was how many smiles the many programs create. 

“Whether it’s athletes achieving new records for themselves, families being proud of what their loved one accomplishes, or staff seeing the long hours pay off, there are always smiles at any Special Olympics Illinois event,” said Alex. “And the Chicago Ducky Derby is no exception.”

The Chicago Ducky Derby is an annual event in which more than 65,000 ducks race to the finish line on the Chicago River. Many athletes like Ethan help sell ducks throughout the summer for the Darling Ducklings team.

Stay tuned for our next Birds of a Feather article, where we dive into the lives of Special Olympics Illinois athletes who are supported in part by the Chicago Ducky Derby.

To support these athletes, you can adopt a duck at