Last Sunday, 12 individuals took part in the 2023 Bank of America Chicago Marathon as members of the inaugural charity team, Team Special Olympics Illinois.
This group, which consisted of athletes, staff members, coaches, family members, volunteers, members of Young Professionals Board and Illinois Law Enforcement Torch Run, and supporters, all came together to raise nearly $25,000 for Special Olympics Illinois.
Of this group was Special Olympics Illinois athlete, Alex Huegen, and Special Olympics Illinois staff member, Katie McFadden. Like their fellow teammates, Alex and Katie both had a unique motivation for running the marathon with Team Special Olympics Illinois.
“I have been an Athlete Leader and athlete with Special Olympics Illinois for more than 12 years,” said Alex. “I have played almost every sport offered, but my favorites are snowshoe and athletics (track and field).” He continued, “I have always wanted to run a marathon. Now I hope to run in Boston or New York one day as well.”
Katie’s brother, Owen, has been an athlete with Special Olympics Illinois for 32 years and is the reason why she wanted to join the inaugural charity team.
“I knew I wasn’t going to break any records with my running time, but I had the confidence in my ability to raise the funds necessary to operate the many events that we host for athletes here in Illinois,” Katie said.
Since first getting involved, being a part of Special Olympics Illinois’ mission has significantly affected both Alex and Katie’s viewpoints on life.
“Special Olympics Illinois has allowed me the opportunity to make new friends, meet people from all walks of life, and to even be a student athlete in college,” said Alex.
For Katie, she had been volunteering for Special Olympics Illinois with the agency Shabbona Park for several years before starting on staff. Katie’s mom works with individuals with intellectual disabilities and her dad is a coach with Shabbona Park.
“I have a new sense of pride when I see our athletes and how happy they are to be part of something that’s bigger than me,” Katie said.
Needless to say, the decision to dedicate their marathon run to Special Olympics Illinois’ inaugural charity team was an easy one. The work these 12 individuals put in, not only raising funds but also preparing for the marathon, just proves how “far” each would go for a mission they love.
“After six hours and six minutes, hearing my name called while crossing the finish line was one of the most humble, yet prideful moments of my life,” said Katie. “I am truly honored to have been part of the first Team Special Olympics Illinois.”