Archive Stories

David Hall Autism Advocate Who Also Has 3 Children On The Autism Spectrum


In this Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast, host David Hirsch talks to Special Father David Hall, the founder of Life Guides For Autistics and Neuroguides. David has three children who are all on the Autism spectrum and more recently discovered he is too. We’ll hear some sage advice and pearls of wisdom from David in this Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast.

Listen here:

Joe Mantegna Reads Baby’s Day Out


We have had such great turnout from so many different celebrities and friends reading to our Young Athletes! Today, we bring you a special book reading! Chicago native and Criminal Minds actor Joe Mantegna reads Baby’s Day Out! And you might just catch a glimpse of him in the movie too. Thanks Joe!

Unified Sports with the Four Legged Kind


Horses help win the minds, hearts, gold, silver and bronze medals with Special Olympics Illinois Athletes

Did you know that with all of the sports that Special Olympics Illinois (SOILL) offers, most are played entirely with other SOILL athletes? However, there is one that is played Unified with another kind of athlete….a horse.

Along with being competitive, humans can be compassionate, calm, athletic, understanding, comforting, friendly and therapeutic to each other. A horse can have the same effect on humans as well.

There is a therapeutic equine facility in Lemont, Illinois working with Special Olympics Illinois athletes and horses preparing them for competition, while helping to build the self-assurance of these riders. As Executive Director and Head Coach, Marlene Karman of Holistic Riding Equestrian Therapy (HRET) states, “The sense of pride, along with enhanced self-confidence and self-esteem derived from our participants knowing that their horses need them for care and exercise, is unlike anything I have ever experienced in any other industry. The bonding among riders, volunteers and horses is the heart of our HRET family.”

As you would imagine, for a facility like this to be extra special, you need exceptional characters as the basis for what you do. While there are many at HRET, one specifically comes to mind, Officer Baldy. No, he was not the local patrolman, but a founding HRET horse that provided so many people with the opportunity to learn how to ride.

Baldy was the original horse at HRET. He joined the ponies, Tony and Tina in 2015, when the Chicago Police Department Mounted Patrol retired him after he worked his final assignment – patrolling the Chicago Blackhawks Stanley Cup celebration.

Baldy was proudly named in honor of Chicago Police Officer Patrolman Leonard F. Baldy, who became the first “Flying Officer”providing Chicagoans with live traffic reports from a helicopter throughout the 1950’s. Baldy’s training and experience made him the ideal therapy horse with his calm, patient demeanor and large fluid movements. He was never fazed by any loud sounds, however this gentle giant, being a true city boy, was not a fan of pigs or cows! Many of HRET’s riders had their first ride on him where they felt comfortable and safe. Many of those riders were Special Olympics Illinois athletes, who rode Baldy in many events, including HRET’s first competition at the 2017 Fall Games at the Braveheart Therapeutic Riding Center in Poplar Grove, IL, near Rockford.

Karman recalls the courage that their first team had when overcoming the jitters at the ’17 games. “It is an amazing accomplishment for first-time athletes to overcome competition nerves in addition to the pressure of riding in a new facility filled with an audience and still perform at gold and silver medal standards. I am so proud of our entire team and their families!”

While many coaches, family members and HRET volunteers had a lot to do with calming the nerves of their athletes, there was one competitor and teammate whose training and spirit helped prepare them all for this.  It was Baldy, who helped bring home eight gold medals that weekend.


HRET’s home is  at Kopping Farms, a 150-year-old historic landmark and working farm that is located next to the Palos Forest Preserve in Lemont, Illinois.

The HRET team is passionately committed to empowering the  lives of individuals with varied physical, emotional, cognitive and social abilities through the spirit of the horse. 

HRET offers a variety of skill appropriate classes meeting the needs of preschoolers on our ponies to independent riders on our program safe horses.

Classes are taught by Professional Association for Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH) Intl. Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructors.

DON’T MISS – 3rd annual Country Western Casino fundraiser, September 19th, 2020 launching HRET’s Capital Campaign for the construction of a new ADA compliant temperature controlled year-round arena/barn in 2021.

Please visit their website at to enjoy the testimonials and support their endeavor.

What Special Olympics Means to our Family


By Cate Hunter

Special Olympics to me means a community, support system, and development path for all individuals, regardless of ability.  

From an early age my twin sister Georgia has been able to compete with Special Olympics.  Our older sister and I were both very active in sports, and though we tried to have Georgia on our teams, it was hard for her to feel competitive and really connect with other players.  Once she got involved with Special Olympics, and swimming in particular, you could immediately see her self-confidence grow.  Not only was she earning gold medals, and ribbons, but she was able to thrive in a sport that “ran in the family” and she is so proud to do it.  Every single competition, or meet, or game, you can see that other athletes, and their families, feel the same way.  Our family can take great comfort in knowing that the Special Olympics community is there for Georgia, as much as she is there for them.  Additionally, all of the friends that she has made over the years across different “areas” means that she has a support system that will cheer her on at events, and will be friendly faces when she travels with just her team to events.  The support system and community have enabled her to become an independent participant in her own life, and for that I am forever grateful.

As far as development opportunities, I am very fortunate to participate on the Young Professionals Board of Chicago, along with a couple hundred other YPs.  This opportunity has helped to develop my professional network, and engage with other like-minded people who are passionate about helping others.  As we get older it is harder to meet people outside of your existing network of friends, and the YPB enables new connections, and greater exposure to the Special Olympics organization and its staff.  Additionally, Special Olympics has a leadership development program for select athletes.  This Global Messenger program helps to grow networking skills and enables athletes to be a part of the great fundraising effort that is undertaken each year.  Again, this program has enabled Georgia to feel comfortable speaking to crowds of over 10,000 and make connections at universities speaking to students.  She is a respected member of the group, and seeing her walk into a networking room with confidence is something that I never knew if she’d be able to do and, thanks to Special Olympics, it is now second nature to her.

In short, the independent life of my sister, the community for my parents, the development opportunities for me and my peers, is unrivaled, and would not be possible without Special Olympics.  To me, it means my sister and those around her living a fulfilled, engaged, and happy life.

Protected Tomorrows


“Taking Care of Yourself and Your Family During These Stressful Time” class description:

Are you stressed about how to care for yourself as well as your family during COVID-19? While you are trying to work from home, how are you dealing with your children being around?  And if your child has special needs, are you especially stressed by the lockdown and change in routine?  Join us for a conversation focused on simple research based health and wellness solutions that prepare you for the challenges that parents and caregivers face today.  A distinguished expert in the wellness industry, Shay Beider, founder of Integrative Touch for Kids, will help you stay at the forefront of the industry’s leading edge methods for caring for yourself right now. Prepare for the challenges facing parents today by maintaining core wellness without getting derailed from experiencing unknown and unexpected changes.

To sign up for current and future webinars, people can go to our website, and click on the webinar they would like to sign up for.