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To many, fall includes bon fires, cozy outfits, watching football with friends, warm cider, pumpkin patches, and more. To Special Olympics Illinois, fall means volleyball and equestrian championships in Rockford at Fall Games.

Athletes gather at Harlem High School to compete in volleyball skills and team play. Equestrian competition is held at BraveHearts at the Bergmann Centre. Between these two sports, the 2022 Fall Games will see more than 450 athletes and 40 Unified partners compete. One athlete in particular is excited for his first Fall Games experience.

a man smiling with his hand on his head

Austin Henry is an athlete from Region A and a recent Byron High School graduate. His team, the Rockford Red Hots, secured their spot in the volleyball Traditional Division V after a valiant effort at regionals. Their first state match is on the Saturday of Fall Games, October 22, at noon versus the NSSRA Gators Green.

For Austin, teamwork is most important. “To me, teamwork means that we help each other and have each other’s backs,” he said, “All of my teammates are so nice to me. They all are very helpful and friendly, and I am so grateful to be on this team. My teammates are like family to me!”

In addition to volleyball, Austin also has participated in basketball, swimming, track and field, bowling, bocce, and eSports. One of his favorite sports in high school, however, was wrestling. “I was in great shape. Thanks to Special Olympics Illinois, I can continue to stay in shape and get exercise,” he said.

Austin has won “many” gold, silver, and bronze medals throughout his time with Special Olympics Illinois. He says he feels very proud when he does his best. In his free time, Austin likes to watch movies, ski, surf, and practice his DJ skills with his DJ set. He aspires to be a DJ one day.

About Fall Games, Austin said, “I look forward to seeing my new friends. I am going to try hard to win a medal, but if I don’t I will support my team no matter what it takes.”

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Click here to learn more about the 2022 Fall Games, or to sign up as a volunteer.

Spectators are welcome and encouraged to attend. If you can’t be there in person, you can watch along via the live stream or follow along with the Special Olympics Illinois social coverage on our Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and TikTok channels.