In November, more than 80 athletes from all over North America convened in Chicago for the two-day Special Olympics Illinois' Leadership Academy at the Hyatt Regency Chicago. For athlete leader Ryan Murray, it was a weekend filled with workshops, fellowship and fun.

Ryan is an athlete who regularly competes in track and field as well as tennis. This was his second time attending Leadership Academy. “The event was on an even bigger scale than last year,” Ryan said. “I really enjoyed talking to athletes from the Caribbean and making new friendships.”

a group of people sitting at tables

The weekend’s workshops were tailored to different aspects of each Athlete Leader’s growth, Ryan said. He especially enjoyed the workshop on employment readiness, as Ryan currently works for Special Olympics Illinois as an Event Project Assistant. The Health Messenger workshop was good too, according to Ryan, because it reminded each attendee of the health services Special Olympics Illinois offers. There were also workshops for parents, mentors and coaches on topics like housing and how to best support their athlete leader.

The weekend wasn’t just all work and no play, Ryan noted. There was an improv workshop and plenty of fellowship events. Ryan said he and his fellow athlete leaders laughed a lot over the two days. Athlete leaders participated in eSports, karaoke, bingo, and a dinner with Dave Breen, Special Olympics Illinois President & CEO.

Overall, Ryan rated the entire experience “A+” and added he would, “recommend Leadership Academy to any athlete leader that wants to develop their leadership skills and abilities.”

a man and woman holding a certificate

Want to support Special Olympics Illinois programs like Leadership Academy? Click here to donate.

View photos of Leadership Academy here.