For athlete Drew Derunlc, eSports expanded his passion for Special Olympics Illinois, the Inclusion Revolution, and gaming.
Drew has participated in Special Olympics Illinois bowling in the past and utilizes a wheelchair when competing. Last September, Drew’s mom, Donna, reached out to Special Olympics Illinois to see how Drew could best get involved with the emerging eSports program. He grew up playing the Nintendo Wii and mastered his skills in Wii Bowling and other Wii Sports.
According to Donna, the eSports program opened many opportunities for Drew. A Nintendo Switch was purchased through an outreach opportunity offering made possible by the Special Olympics Illinois Foundation Board. Drew was a natural with the Nintendo Switch. Like the Nintendo Wii, the Nintendo Switch has a movement-based control system. Drew has honed his skills by participating in all Special Olympics Illinois eSports competitions and game nights. He has even become a star-level Mario Kart racer!
Mac Dougan, Assistant Director – Digital Initiatives, visited Drew in November to ensure all of Drew’s favorite games are adapted to his specific needs. Mac tweaked motion-control settings and introduced Drew to a variety of games he can play with his new friends.
“Drew is an example of the importance of the Special Olympics Illinois eSports program,” Dougan said. “By ensuring that athletes of all different levels can play the games they are passionate about, athletes like Drew are creating more inclusive and accepting spaces in online communities.”
“Drew is a shining example of how the Special Olympics Illinois helps to provide opportunities to those with intellectual disabilities throughout the state, all year long,” he added.
And, the 2023 Special Olympics Illinois Winter Games also included an inside look at this new program. For the first time, Winter Games featured an inclusive technology experience, including eSports equipment, Augment Reality headsets, digital touch-boards, photo booths, and more.
This experience will be available throughout the year at Special Olympics Illinois state championships.