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!
9th Annual NBA Cares Special Olympics Unified Basketball All-Star Game
By Daniel Smrokowski, Sargent Shriver International Global Messenger & Special Olympics Illinois Athlete Leader
On Friday, February 14, I had an opportunity to be an athlete reporter at the 9th annual NBA Cares Special Olympics Unified Basketball Game at NBA All-Star 2020 in Chicago. I attended this event, along with my SSIGM mentor & Chief Marketing Officer from Special Olympics Illinois (SOILL) Chris Winston and two other marketing & communications staff from SO Illinois, Alex & Bridget. During the Unified game, we sat courtside to watch the exciting game. I was honored and grateful to attend this star-studded sporting event, especially since basketball is one of my favorite sports in Special Olympics to compete in.
This Special Olympics Unified Game took place at the Wintrust Arena on Chicago’s south side during NBA All-Star Week, right before the Celebrity Game. In case you missed the thrilling #NBAAllStar2020 Unified game in the Windy City, the action was streamed live on the NBA’s Facebook page.
We had ten fellow Special Olympics athletes from across our Special Olympics North America Region, one athlete from Special Olympics Belgium (SO Europe-Eurasia Region), and one athlete from Special Olympics South Korea (Special Olympics East Asia Region). The teams were divided into two — the East Team (Home) and the West Team (Away). Both teams consisted of five Special Olympics athletes per team and celebrity Unified partners. Each team also had volunteer celebrity coaches. The number “24” was branded on the upper left breast of every athlete’s uniform in honor of the late Kobe Bryant, former L.A. Lakers professional athlete.
Sean Annan, fellow Special Olympics athlete, traveled from his home which is 20 miles from Vancouver, Canada. Sean regularly competes with his team from Special Olympics British Columbia in his Langley program. In addition to basketball, Sean competes in golf. He also competes on a regular softball team.
“It’s a once-in-a-life-time [experience],” said Sean in a post-game interview near the locker rooms. “It’s really special meeting new people from different places [and] I’m having fun, that’s what it’s all about.”
Watch my full postgame interview with Sean on SCTV, the digital television platform on Special Chronicles LIVE: https://youtu.be/iUbVDrZqka0
Directly from our home state of Special Olympics Illinois, USA, fellow Special Olympics athlete Carrie Nykiel didn’t have to travel far as she competes right in the Chicago area. Carrie competes in mostly every sport including volleyball, softball, and powerlifting.
“It was an amazing, great experience, [and] first time doing it,” said Carrie during a postgame interview after an excellent star-studded Unified basketball game during the NBA All-Star 2020.
Watch the full postgame interview I hosted with Carrie LIVE from the Wintrust Arena on Special Chronicles LIVE and airing on SCTV: https://youtu.be/jGuB0lIxQeo
For those who have attended any of our many Special Olympics events, our movement is driven by more than 1.1 million volunteers donating their time and expertise. That’s true for Andy Grammer, triple-platinum singer/songwriter, who stepped up this year as a volunteer coach for the 2020 NBA Cares Special Olympics Unified Basketball game.
Moments after the game, I had an opportunity to ask Andy about his experiences serving as a coach for this Special Olympics Unified Sports event.
“It’s the way it makes your heart feel,” said Andy about what the Inclusion Revolution means to him. “This is the best place to be.”
In memory of the late Kobe Bryant from the Los Angeles Lakers NBA team who had passed away a few weeks prior to this year’s NBA All-Star Week, our Special Olympics Unified Game concluded in an exciting moment that paid tribute to Kobe.
Christopher Carter, fellow Special Olympics athlete, traveled from Special Olympics Virginia, USA. Chris’ parents coach for Special Olympics and he says his family lives and breathes basketball. Pointing at the number “24” on his yellow-colored uniform, Chris said his favorite part of the game was a tribute to the late Kobe Bryant.
The score went back and forth in the fourth quarter and with less than 30 seconds left, Chris’ team was down three. After Unified partner Horace Grant scored to pull his team within one, Chris stole the inbounds pass and hit a baseline jump shot with 11 seconds left to seal the victory for his team.
“If it wasn’t for this number,” said Chris. “The game winning shot, of course, the gaming winning shot” was Chris’ favorite part of this year’s Special Olympics Unified Basketball Game during the NBA All-Star Week.
Watch the full postgame interview I hosted with Chris Carter moments after his winning shot. Now Available to watch on Special Chronicles LIVE, airing on SCTV the Special Chronicles digital television platform, SCTV: https://youtu.be/ff3dI5onvtk
I have to agree that this inclusion moment was my favorite part, too. Amongst many celebrities, we were able to bring our Inclusion Revolution movement to the NBA and the world of professional sporting events. This is the way to be fully included. This is how we can truly live in a Unified world.
Whether we are playing sports or interviewing fellow athletes & celebrities off the court, we all win when we #ChooseToInclude and join the Inclusion Revolution.
Congratulations to all on competing in a thrilling Unified game!
Kyle & Emma Hendricks: SOILL “Star Champion” Ambassadors
Special Olympics Illinois is proud to announce that Chicago Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks and wife, Emma, have officially signed on as “Star Champion” Ambassadors for the organization. Their ambassadorship journey began in May of 2017.
“We can’t wait to get out there and spread the word…and do anything we can to help!” Kyle Hendricks, Chicago Cubs Pitcher.
In less than a year Kyle and Emma have helped raise over $25,000 to support 23,000 Special Olympics Illinois athletes.
Learn about Special Olympics Illinois, our upcoming events, fundraisers, & competitions!
Choosing to live a healthy life can be hard for anyone. We asked Chicago Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks, his wife Emma Hendricks and Special Olympics athlete Daniel Smrokowski, to share their motivations and daily routines to make health and fitness a priority in their lives.
For additional information please contact:
Teresa Crudele-Seidel| Special Olympics Illinois | Sports Marketing Director
C: 312.405.7335 | E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Special Olympics is a global organization that unleashes the human spirit through the transformative power and joy of sport, every day around the world. Through programming in sports, health, education and community building, Special Olympics is changing the lives of people with intellectual disabilities solving the global injustice, isolation, intolerance and inactivity they face. Special Olympics Illinois provides opportunities for more than 22,500 athletes, more than 20,000 Young Athletes, 45,000 volunteers and thousands more people statewide through 18 Area programs in all 102 counties of the state.
Special Olympics began in Illinois with the first games at Soldier Field in July 1968 thanks to the efforts of Eunice Kennedy Shriver and her peers. There are now more than 4.5 million athletes in 170 countries. Special Olympics is financially sound with diverse revenue streams, a thorough annual budget process and increasing organizational revenue streams. Special Olympics Illinois does not charge athletes or their families to participate in the program.
Provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.
“Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”