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Dear Special Olympics Illinois Community,

I hope this communication finds you well. This year has been a whirlwind and, as it draws to a close, I have been reflecting on my incredible journey with Special Olympics Illinois. Together, we have met many milestones and provided immeasurable life-changing opportunities to countless athletes and families within our community.

As you can imagine, facing a new chapter in your life compels you to recall those in the past. I believe I would be remiss not to mention my mother and the watershed moment I had with her in 1971.

My mother and I attended a neighborhood gathering in our small farming community. There, I met a boy my age named Brian. Brian was a person with Down syndrome. As a young boy, all I was able to recognize was Brian spoke and acted differently than me and I was unsure how to act. My mother pulled me aside and explained to me that all Brian wanted was a friend. It was a life-changing moment.

That moment began a lifetime of learning - learning from individuals like Brian, and so many others, that society used to say did not have worth. And that moment propelled me into a lifetime of service, something else I learned from my mother. She believed in living your life in service and trying to make a difference. I know following her example led me here today.

And today, we see extraordinary accomplishments from individuals with intellectual disabilities. Athletes are displaying immense strength by competing in marathons and triathlons, showing tremendous courage by giving inspirational speeches in front of thousands, and spreading awareness as advocates and leaders in our community. All they needed was a chance.

Providing that chance certainly takes a village.

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I must acknowledge the dedicated peer partners, coaches, and volunteers, who have played an integral role in empowering our athletes to reach their full potential. Thank you for being teammates, friends, and members of the mission.

I am grateful to our generous donors and the incredible Board members who have selflessly contributed their time, resources, and expertise to further our cause.

To my colleagues, past and present, it has been a pleasure working alongside you. It is your passion, hard work, and innovation that has pushed Special Olympics Illinois to new heights. I am immensely proud of what we have accomplished together, and I have no doubt this organization will continue to transform lives under new leadership.

To all the athlete families who have trusted us with the care and development of your loved ones. Thank you for being an advocate and helping us become the community we are today.

And to the athletes of Special Olympics Illinois. What I have learned, and whom I have learned from the most, are you. In fact, you are our true teachers. You are the most evolved in love, courage, compassion, and attitude. Your spirit demonstrates the joy, strength, and goodness so rarely found in this world.

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To all those who have assisted, supported, and mentored me - I owe you an unpayable debt. The only way to even try to repay it is in my attempt to make a difference, an effort I will continue in my retirement.

On a personal note, I would also like to thank my loved ones - family and friends alike - for the support they have shown me throughout my life and during my tenure here at Special Olympics Illinois. Through the miles and miles traversing Illinois, many events attended, and after-hours focused on the job, you have stood by me. I hope to return the favor.

As I sign off, I would like to propose a giving opportunity to you. To continue to impact the lives of the individuals we serve, I would be honored if you would consider donating to The Champions Fund. This fund will be used to further create innovative programs to foster a more inclusive world, and a portion will directly benefit athletes and refugees in Ukraine and other locations who are facing such adversity at this time.

In closing, as I bid farewell to this incredible organization that has been my second family, I am filled with thankfulness for every moment of learning and discovery I've had on this journey. It has been the ride of a lifetime.

With Gratitude,

Dave Breen
President & CEO
Special Olympics Illinois