To the Special Olympics Illinois Community,

I recently had a moment to watch the video you see below. It recaps one of my favorite events of the year, the Special Olympics Illinois Summer Games. And it got me thinking about the importance of this weekend every summer. First, and most importantly, Summer Games gives thousands of our athletes a chance to shine. They have a stage to show what they can do – in front of their teammates, peers, family, coaches, volunteers, staff, and community members. Some will succeed. Some will not. But all are brave in the attempt.

It provides a “college” experience to participating athletes who did not have that chance. It is also the time where we have the most members of the Special Olympics Illinois community together annually. And it is quite a showing.

There are many members of our community – more than 55,000. If you are a member yourself, an athlete, this is a space where you can thrive. Possibly you are a parent or family member who wants to cheer on your athlete or has found comradery with your peers seated next to you in the stands. Maybe you are a coach, and you guide these athletes and want to see them succeed. You could be a part of the local community or a staff member and want to be a part of something larger than yourself.

No matter your role, you play a pivotal part in the community.

That’s because we are all here because we need to be. Because we must be. Because we are called to be, in some way. And that creates so much strength.

Communities – strong, lasting communities – are made up of many people, at many different times. The people there come and go. Some stay a short while, some for decades. Some even for a lifetime. Each that passes through makes an impact, and they help form the identity of that community.

This is a community I am so honored to be a part of - and one I know will continue, stronger than ever because we are a movement. A movement that will continue to break barriers.

Because it is more than just one person. One athlete. One coach.

It is a community. One without judgment. One with unconditional support. And our support knows no bounds, as you could see recently during the Opening Ceremony of the World Games in Berlin.

Special Olympics athletes, including representatives from Illinois, were on a world stage, cheering the loudest for the delegations from countries like the Ukraine, Syria, Iran, Iraq, and more. Supporting those with unimaginable obstacles in front of them. Willing them the strength to continue to push past those barriers.

We are a deep-seeded community that will grow and change, but never disappear. Because there will always be those who need to be a part of it. Who must be a part of it. Who are called to be a part of it.

We will always choose to include.

Have a great summer,

Dave Breen
President & CEO
Special Olympics Illinois

2023 Summer Games Recap Video: