You’ve seen posts on social media, you’ve seen pictures from events, and perhaps you’ve been to some (or many) of our competitions. But do you ever wonder who makes up Special Olympics Illinois, and what all goes on behind the scenes?
It takes an entire team of dedicated players to build a successful organization. Each player has a specific role they fulfill each day to contribute to that success. And four players in particular – who are also athletes - display the joy, hard work, and determination each day that exemplifies what it means to be a part of Special Olympics Illinois.
So who are these four athletes, and what do they do at Special Olympics Illinois?
George Fecht has been Office Assistant in the Normal office for five years. Two days a week, he and his dad come in to tidy things up. The pair goes from office to office greeting members from the different departments. “Trash and recycling today,” George will announce. We hand him our proper bins as he and Mr. Fecht continue their rounds.
In addition to collecting trash and recycle, George vacuums the office floor, cleans the vacuum, and washes the front windows. George says he enjoys his job because it keeps him in shape. “I like being here because of the environment,” said George.
George loved to volunteer at SOILL Summer Games and Polar Plunges, but now instead of volunteering, he sponsors other participants. George is a 1990 graduate from Normal Community High School in Normal, IL, a blue belt in stick fighting and kickboxing, and he enjoys doing yoga in his free time.
Ryan Murray was hired at Special Olympics Illinois in December 2021. He works part time in the Lombard Office as Event Projects Assistant. The typical workday for Ryan starts at 10:00 AM when he arrives at the office. He takes a seat at his cubicle and logs on for a day full of attending meetings and collaborating with fellow coworkers.
As Event Projects Assistant, Ryan also spends time organizing event equipment for Region B, Region C, and Unified Champion Schools. He also fields incoming calls for the office. “The staff here at Special Olympics Illinois are like part of my family,” said Ryan.
The job hasn’t been without challenges though, Ryan said. The biggest obstacle Ryan faces at the office is managing conversations. “We are working on learning when it’s okay to interject in a conversation,” said Ryan’s SOILL mentor and boss, Dan Conley.
Ryan is using this opportunity to improve his communication skills. In addition to his part-time role, Ryan is in the Athlete Leadership program. He also is a member of the Darling Ducklings, an athlete-led sales team for the Chicago Ducky Derby. Ryan loves being a part of Special Olympics Illinois. Although his work day is scheduled to end at 3:00 PM, sometimes Ryan stays longer because he simply enjoys being at the office so much.
Cory Williams is the newest athlete-member of the Special Olympics Illinois team, having started his role this past March. Cory is a part-time Event Project Assistant for Region D. His typical work week consists of helping on-site at Region D events in Chicago, both Unified and traditional, loading and unloading equipment, and going to police departments to talk about Special Olympics Illinois.
Cory is very passionate about sports, especially basketball and football. He helps Region D out by refereeing at basketball games and umpiring at baseball games. This summer, Cory competed on the #TeamSOILL flag football team at the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games in Orlando, Florida – and helped bring home the gold!
After having been involved with SOILL for 14 years, Cory’s excited to have a new, different kind of role in the organization. He works closely with his SOILL mentor and boss, Melissa Garritano. Cory also receives career guidance from Anixter Center in Chicago. Cory says he’s learning how to be both a SOILL employee and athlete and “how to always represent SOILL professionally.”
“This is a great job,” Cory said, “I get to do a lot of things and go a lot of places.”
Jacob Cross has been working out of the Normal office for just over a year as Office Assistant. His day-to-day usually consists of various landscaping tasks, deconstructing boxes, sorting through t-shirts, emptying trash and recycle, cleaning the floors and refrigerator, and an assortment of other tasks.
During warmer months when he can work outside, Jacob is in the office for about 12-15 hours per week. In the wintertime, however, he is in for about eight hours per week. It’s easy to think of Jacob while you’re in the Normal office. On the east side of the building is a large bin labeled “Jacob’s Cans.” Together, Jacob and his mom collect empty aluminum soda cans and metal scraps to recycle, raising money for his Polar Plunge team. In the office, whenever you drink a soda, you remember to put the can in Jacob’s bin.
Prior to working at Special Olympics Illinois, Jacob volunteered at events. He also likes to participate in events like the Illinois LETR Polar Plunge. This year, Jacob dressed up in a bright green, curly wig and tutu to complete his plunge look.
This is just a peek into a typical work week at Special Olympics Illinois. We are grateful to work alongside such inspiring and hardworking people like George, Ryan, Cory, and Jacob, and we aim to continue working with more athletes in the future.