Athlete Leader Makenzie Ready to Emcee Summer Games Opening Ceremony

In the heart of Springfield, Illinois, lives an inspiring athlete who embodies the spirit and determination of Special Olympics Illinois. Makenzie Cook is a dedicated competitor and emerging leader, representing this year’s Summer Games host region, Region H, as part of her team, the Chatham Chargers.

Makenzie’s introduction to the world of sports came through the Special Needs Aquatic Program (SNAP) at her local YMCA. Starting swim lessons in 2009 at the age of eight, Makenzie’s dedication and hard work paid off when she competed in her first swim meet in 2013. From that moment, Makenzie expanded her athletic repertoire to include athletics, golf, and volleyball. This weekend she will compete in swimming, both the backstroke and breaststroke.

Athlete Makenzie posing in front of Special Olympics Illinois banner with her medals on

Following her foray into competition, Makenzie took a significant step in her journey with Special Olympics Illinois by becoming an Athlete Leader. “I took the introduction classes in October of 2023 and completed that with a certificate,” she explained. By February 2024, she had also completed the Athlete Spokesperson class, marking her readiness to take on leadership roles within the organization.

With Summer Games on the horizon, Makenzie is filled with excitement and anticipation. “I am most excited to see all the events come together and, of course, getting to compete and watch all of my friends compete in their events,” she says.

As she prepares to emcee Summer Games Opening Ceremony on Friday, June 7, Makenzie admits to feeling a mix of excitement and nerves. “This is the first time that I will be getting to speak in front of such a large crowd,” she shares. Despite her experience singing the National Anthem at local sporting events, public speaking brings its own unique challenges. Nevertheless, Makenzie’s courage and enthusiasm remain firm.

To her fellow athletes aspiring to become leaders, Makenzie offers a piece of advice: “Don’t get worried or discouraged. There are a lot of opportunities as an Athlete Leader. You can always try as many as you like until you find something that speaks to you.” Makenzie notes that throughout her journey, Special Olympics Illinois has consistently been a supportive and uplifting community for her.

Please join us in wishing Makenzie, and all athletes participating in the 2024 Special Olympics Illinois Summer Games, luck this weekend!

Learn more about Summer Games, happening June 7-9 in Bloomington-Normal, or view the schedule of events.