#TeamSOILL Sent Off in Style

When you are walking with the team, you can start to hear rumblings, then a few people begin clapping. As you approach the crowd, amongst the 68 athletes, eight Unified Partners, 22 coaches, and staff members, cheers break out, the applause becomes thundering, and not one person in the arena can keep the smile from their face. And possible, a tear from their eye.

That was the scene through every leg of the road to sunny Orlando, Florida as #TeamSOILL headed to the Special Olympics 2022 USA Games.

The party kicked off with a team dinner at Sugar Factory in Rosemont, followed by the VIP treatment from United as the team departed from O’Hare. #TeamSOILL was treated to breakfast, along with plenty of fanfare in the terminal before taking to the skies.

And the party didn’t stop when the team touched down. Cheers and applause greeted the athletes and coaches as they made their way through the airport, onto buses, and finally to the assigned resort. Fittingly, #TeamSOILL is staying at the Disney All-Star resort – as that is certainly how everyone felt after the trip.

To see photos from the send off, check out the albums below:

Flickr: #TeamSOILL Send Off Dinner

Flickr: #TeamSOILL Travels to Orlando

Let the Games Begin

Day two quite literally kicked off the festivities, with inspiration, inclusion, and a little help from Mickey and Minnie. Each state’s delegation paraded through Exploria Stadium to applause and well wishes being shouted from the stands all around them. #TeamSOILL was joined by board members Karen Wilson and Brook Klawitter, as well as Final Leg runner/athlete Aaron Drescher and Illinois Law Enforcement Torch Run officer, Diane Vanderkooy.

It was a hot day, but nothing could dampen the teams’ spirits. There were appearances from Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Pluto, and the gang, and remarks from fellow athletes, dignitaries, and even some celebrity ambassadors.

Spotted at Opening Ceremony

The team was ON IT when it came to celebrity sightings in the crowd. Wrestling fans spotted a few of their favorites, but the most oohs and aahs came when The Undertaker walked by. The flag football team had a chance to trade a few pins with Tim Tebow, and everyone loved that moment, including the coaches.

And one of the most exciting moments came when Special Olympics Chairman of the Board, Tim Shriver, walked by and waved hello. He even posed for a few photos.

To see more from the Opening Ceremony, please check out:

Flickr: 2022 USA Games Opening Ceremony

Watch ESPN: 2022 USA Games LETR Final Leg

Watch ESPN: 2022 USA Games Opening Ceremony #TeamSOILL Entrance


#TeamSOILL walking into Exploria Stadium at the 2022 USA Games Opening Ceremony

Follow Along on the Journey

Don’t forget to connect with each of the Special Olympics Illinois social channels to see what is happening direct from Orlando, as the action happens.

You can also check out our Flickr page for all the latest photos as they are uploaded. We will be back later in the week to look in on how competition is going, where the team has visited, and more. Until then, let’s go #TeamSOILL!

If you’d like to learn more or support the team, go to soill.org/usa-games.

Update: You can see how #TeamSOILL competed here and here.