Organizational Updates Stories

Accomodation Requests


Special Olympics Illinois now has a Request for Accommodation Form for use when athletes want to modify uniform rules or requirements for religious or cultural beliefs.  The form is also used when an athlete wants to request a sport accommodation that is not already outlined in the Creating Opportunities for Athletes with Physical Disabilities Section on page S2-26 of the Competition Policies & Procedures.

Accomodation Forms

SOILL Evaluating Future Success of 3 Sports


A challenge many Special Olympics Programs face is determining when it is appropriate to add new sports. An even greater challenge presents itself when participation diminishes and Programs are confronted with the prospect of eliminating a sport. These challenges are being discussed throughout the country with best practices being shared to help guide Programs through the process.

Since Programs routinely receive requests to add new sports, a mechanism must be in place to evaluate the potential success of any new sport. Some factors we consider are:

  • Does the sport offer continued growth potential for a wide spectrum of current and potential athletes throughout the state?
  • Does adding the sport cause significant hardship on the current competition schedule?
  • Is adding the sport financially feasible for the organization and for agencies?
  • Will there be meaningful competition that allows for fair and equitable divisions?

Similar components may also apply when evaluating currently offered sports with declining interest or low participation. Special Olympics Illinois realizes and appreciates the fact that athletes and their families are passionate and committed to the sports they participate in. However, even though it is difficult for all involved, participation levels in some sports are very low and must be evaluated to determine the future of these sports and how they affect overall programming opportunities within the state.

Special Olympics Illinois has finalized guidelines for adding new sports and guidelines for determining the future of sports with declining or low participation. The first step that Programs are encouraged to use when assessing declining or low participation sports is to survey agencies to determine if enough interest exists that will result in an increase in participation numbers.

Later this month, SOILL is sending a survey to every agency asking for their feedback on the potential to offer the sports of cross country skiing, figure skating and speed skating at their agency. Agencies that already offer these sports will be asked about the potential to expand participation. The survey includes questions about what resources SOILL could provide to agencies to allow them to implement or expand participation in any of these sports. The survey should be completed by the person at the agency who oversees budget and programming decisions and will be open through Nov. 30, 2016.

SOILL will use survey responses to determine if resources and support can be provided to grow participation in the sport(s). If responses indicate interest will not increase regardless of resource support, then the sport(s) will be eliminated after the 2017 state tournaments in each of the sports. If a sport is slated for elimination, then SOILL will try to identify other competitive opportunities that may exist that athletes in these sports could transition to that would still allow them opportunities to compete.

For questions or comments on declining interest in these sports, please contact Tracy Hilliard, Vice President of Sports Training & Competition, or Marty Hickman, Chief Operating Officer.

New Staff – October 2016


The following people have joined Special Olympics Illinois:

AbelsBenjamin16Benjamin Abels has been named Data Entry Specialist based at the Normal office. He is responsible for general data entry and management.

Abels had previously been employed at Heartland Community College in Normal as a text conversion technician, producing alternative materials for students with disabilities. He had also worked at State Farm Insurance as a sales representative and a customer call center representative.

He has a bachelor’s degree in mathematics with a minor in economics from Illinois State University, Normal.


WinstonChris 1Chris Winston has joined Special Olympics Illinois and will serve as the Chief Marketing Officer, based out of the Northern Office in Lombard. He will be responsible for providing leadership, direct oversight, management and vision necessary to ensure that Special Olympics Illinois is achieving marketing and communications targets.

Previously, Winston was senior account executive for OUTFRONT Media in Chicago. Prior to his OUTFRONT Media position, he was a senior account executive for Van Wagner Outdoor in Chicago.

Winston is no stranger to Special Olympics. He was Director of Marketing for Special Olympics Illinois from 2008-2011, then became Corporate Development Director at Special Olympics Inc. in Washington, D.C.

Winston graduated from the University of Iowa with a bachelor’s degree in economics.




Revamped Format for Golf Venue at Outdoor Sports Festival


Special Olympics Illinois has formed a Golf Sports Management Team in order to enhance the golf venue at the Outdoor Sports Festival. After considering how to improve the flow of competition and allow for a high-quality competition experience, the Golf Sports Management Team has revamped the format for the Outdoor Sports Festival’s golf venue.

Changes are:

  • 6-hole and 9-hole competition will begin with a shotgun start; 3-hole will be using tee times.
  • 9-hole will be golfing in the morning on Saturday and Sunday and 3-hole and 6-hole will be golfing in the afternoon on Saturday.
  • To keep up pace of play, all athletes will need to keep their clubs on their assigned cart at all times.
  • Caddies will caddy off of the cart (driven by volunteer scorekeeper).
  • Agencies providing caddies should register them in advance to help alleviate some of the congestion in the morning.  Form is due by 9/5/16.

Please click here for the caddy form. The form should be submitted by the athlete’s coach only. It has tentative schedule along with general changes to format. Additionally, this form will be available in the Outdoor Sports Festival Handbook and sent to coaches.

If you have any questions about changes to the golf schedule, please contact Brianna Beers at 847-845-6481.

The organization was lucky enough to have quality and experienced individuals join the Golf Sports Management Team. This group met monthly and attended multiple Area Golf Qualifiers in order to make changes that will improve the State Golf Venue. SOILL appreciates their efforts and thanks them for volunteering their time. Members are:

  • Ann Roytek-Rylko, retired NEDSRA Head Golf Coach
  • Bob Gavelek, retired Head Golf Pro of Bartlett Hills
  • Sam Osborne, Millikin University Head Men’s and Women’s Golf Coach


New Staff – August 2016


The following people have joined Special Olympics Illinois:

Marty Hickman
has joined SOILL as Chief Operating Officer, based out of the Normal office. He is responsible for ensuring that the organization has the program-related operational controls, administrative and reporting procedure and staff in place to achieve the organizational Hickman,Marty16-cropgoals.

Hickman was previously Executive Director of Illinois High School Association, retiring in January 2016, after 25 years with the organization. Before joining the IHSA, he was principal at schools in Monmouth, Joy and Bluffs, and began his teaching/coaching career in Girard.

He was a Special Olympics Illinois Board member from 2005-2012.

During his tenure with IHSA, Hickman was a board member of the National Federation of State High School Associations, National Association of Sports Officials and Council on Standards for International Educational Travel; was a board liaison with Illinois Association of School Administrators; was Strategic Planning Chair or Vice Chair for Kansas State High School Activities Association Strategic Plan, National Federation of State High School Associations Strategic Plan or NFHS National Presence Committee.

He has a bachelor’s degree from Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, master’s degree in Educational Administration from University of Illinois in Springfield and doctorate in Education from University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana.


Liz Lathrop has joined SOILL as part-time customer service representative based at the
Lathrop,Liz16-cropNormal office. She is responsible for front desk duties in the mornings and assisting other departments as needed.

She has worked the majority of her career in the field of education in Indiana, serving as a note taker/tutor for college students with disabilities, substitute teacher, preschool teacher and paraprofessional working with children with disabilities.

Lathrop attended Ivy Tech Community College in Lafayette, Ind., and Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, Mo.


Paige Passaro has joined SOILL as part-time customer service representative at the Normal Passaro,Paige16-cropoffice. She is responsible for the front desk duties in the afternoons and assisting other departments as needed.

She has worked as a part-time administrative assistant at a real estate firm around her school schedule. She is currently pursuing a degree in business at Illinois State University, Normal.

Passaro has volunteered at Spring Brook Elementary School Library Media Center in Naperville and St. John’s Breadline in Springfield. She is captain of ISU’s Women’s Ultimate Frisbee Club.