Outstanding Awards Stories

2016 SOILL Outstanding Volunteer of the Year


 

Eric Smith of Sherman has received the 2016 Special Olympics Illinois’ Outstanding Volunteer of the Year Award. He was honored at a reception on June 10 before the Special Olympics Illinois Summer Games Opening Ceremony at Illinois State University in Normal.

The Outstanding Volunteer Award recognizes an individual who through their voluntary efforts improve the quality of the Special Olympics Illinois program to benefit all aspects of the organization.

Former Chief of Sherman Police Department Eric Smith has been a Special Olympics volunteer for 11 years. He has been an invaluable asset to not only the athletes of Special Olympics Illinois, but Special Olympics athletes around the globe. He has given generous amounts of time to the organization while serving his community through his law enforcement responsibilities.

For many years, Eric served an integral role within the Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) Committee, gladly accepting new responsibilities. In 2011, he was called to lead the Illinois program and serve as the state’s Torch Run director. Under his leadership, the Illinois LETR soared to new heights in terms of fundraising and creating awareness for Special Olympics. Through Smith’s direction and leadership, the Illinois LETR raised $3 million in 2013, and raised more than $4 million last year. Smith takes pride in making sure the law enforcement community puts forward their best effort for this program, so that the Special Olympics athletes are afforded the opportunities to demonstrate their abilities. It has been Smith’s personal goal to have law enforcement from every corner of our state embrace the Torch Run as a year-round movement, rather than a week-long run.

One of the highlights of Smith’s involvement with Special Olympics was that he was selected as a Law Enforcement Torch Run Final Leg Runner for the 2015 World Games in Los Angeles. For two weeks, he ran the Flame of Hope throughout California. Eric noted that “the camaraderie and being that close to the athletes and running with them, seeing the communities cheering you on as you ran – you can’t really explain it, you’ve just got to experience it.” He is also a key organizer for the Springfield Dunkin’ Donuts Cop on Rooftop event and Texas Roadhouse Benefit lunch.

Smith says that Special Olympics has been the most rewarding experience that he and his wife have been involved in. His daughter Ashley has also become involved with the Law Enforcement Torch Run in Kansas.

“Perhaps the greatest thing I can say about Eric is that if you were to ask him, he would genuinely rather see others be honored with this exceptional award,” said Smith’s nominator. He is well-deserving of this recognition not only for the impact he has made, but for the smiles that the Torch Run creates.

Special Olympics Illinois is a not-for-profit organization offering year-round training and competition in 19 sports for more than 22,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities and more than 20,000 Young Athletes ages 2-7 with and without intellectual disabilities. Special Olympics transforms the lives of people with intellectual disabilities, allowing them to realize their full potential in sports and in life. Special Olympics programs enhance physical fitness, motor skills, self-confidence, social skills, and encourage family and community support. If you are interested in learning more about Special Olympics Illinois, volunteering or providing financial support to help make Special Olympics programs possible, contact your local Special Olympics agency, call 800-394-0562 or visit our website www.soill.org.


2016 SOILL Outstanding Athlete of the Year


 

Charles Dunn of Belleville has been named the 2016 Special Olympics Illinois’ Outstanding Athlete of the Year Award. He was honored at a reception June 10 before the Special Olympics Illinois Summer Games Opening Ceremony at Illinois State University in Normal.

The Outstanding Athlete Award recognizes a Special Olympics Illinois athlete whose achievements, dedication and commitment to their team and themselves exemplifies the purpose of Special Olympics.

Charles Dunn - CopyCharles has been involved with Special Olympics over the past 10 years. He competes in basketball, bocce, bowling, golf, softball, snowshoeing and track and field through the Southern Illinois Grasshoppers. He also volunteers and serves on committees for Special Olympics to make competitions and fundraisers a success.

Charles has been a crucial part of Special Olympics and is known throughout the community as a diplomat for the organization. Through his contributions, he has helped raise more than $75,000 benefiting Special Olympics Illinois Southwestern Area 12. He brings energy, enthusiasm and dedication to competing and volunteering.

Throughout his time with Special Olympics, Charles has inspired other athletes and coaches to get involved and make a difference in the lives of individuals with and without intellectual disabilities. His nominator said, “Over the past three years, I have had the privilege and honor to get to know Charles as a competitor, Global Messenger, Special Olympics ambassador and most importantly friend.”

Charles’ leadership and dedication to Special Olympics explains why Charles is honored as Athlete of the Year. He is always looking for opportunities to help and contribute to the organization.

Special Olympics Illinois is a not-for-profit organization offering year-round training and completion in 19 sports for more than 22,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities and more than 20,000 Young Athletes ages 2-7 with and without intellectual disabilities. Special Olympics transforms the lives of people with intellectual disabilities, allowing them to realize their full potential in sports and in life. Special Olympics programs enhance physical fitness, motor skills, self-confidence, social skills, and encourage family and community support. If you are interested in learning more about Special Olympics Illinois, volunteering or providing financial support to help make Special Olympics programs possible, contact your local Special Olympics agency, call 800-394-0562 or visit our website at www.soill.org


2016 SOILL Outstanding Coach of the Year


 

Jennifer Hitt of Edwardsville has been named the 2016 Special Olympics Illinois’ Outstanding Coach of the Year Award. She will be honored at a reception June 10 before the Special Olympics Illinois Summer Games Opening Ceremony at Illinois State University in Normal.

The Outstanding Coach Award recognizes the coach who best demonstrates the true ideals of the coaching profession, who leads by example and expects athletes to set and strive to reach goals. As a coach of Special Olympics Illinois athletes, he or she must demonstrate both technical skills and personal commitment to the physical, social and psychological well-being of the athletes.

Hitt_Jennifer_IL_Gymnastics-RhythmicJennifer Hitt has been involved with Special Olympics Illinois as a coach and instrumental member of the gymnastics program for more than 16 years. In addition to her career as a coach, Jennifer has been a volunteer, certified training school clinician, a key event management volunteer and a Team Illinois and Team USA coach.

Jennifer’s dedication to Special Olympics has changed lives as she is skilled in identifying her athletes’ strengths and weaknesses. She has created individual practice plans and skill progressions to provide the highest quality instruction in order to determine what each athlete needs in order to learn and perform their best.

Jennifer initiated special needs gymnastics classes at the World Class Gymnastics Center in Belleville in 1998 and formed a Special Olympics team within the next year. She has positioned her gymnastics program to be based upon inclusion. The young members who train at World Class Gymnastics Center have grown up with her Special Olympics team and have welcomed athletes as their friends and training partners. Jennifer has set the bar for acceptance, comradery and teamwork.

All of the roles that Jennifer has so willingly taken on exemplify why she is so deserving of the Outstanding Coach of the Year Award. She has gone above and beyond to make a difference in the lives of her athletes as she continues to encourage acceptance and teamwork.

Special Olympics Illinois is a not-for-profit organization offering year-round training and competition in 19 sports for more than 22,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities and more than 20,000 Young Athletes ages 2-7 with and without intellectual disabilities. Special Olympics transforms the lives of people with intellectual disabilities, allowing them to realize their full potential in sports and in life. Special Olympics programs enhance physical fitness, motor skills, self-confidence, social skills, and encourage family and community support. If you are interested in learning more about Special Olympics Illinois, volunteering, or providing financial support to help make Special Olympics programs possible, contact your local Special Olympics agency, call 800-394-0562 or visit our website at www.soill.org.


2016 SOILL Outstanding Family of the Year


 

The Jones family of Hoffman Estates has been named the 2016 Special Olympics Illinois’ Outstanding Family of the Year Award. The family will be honored at a reception June 10 before the Special Olympics Illinois Summer Games Opening Ceremony at Illinois State University in Normal.

The Outstanding Family Award recognizes a family with a Special Olympics athlete that has made unique and lasting contributions not only benefiting their athletes but also every aspect of the Special Olympics Illinois program.

Jones FamilyMike and Paula’s daughter, Ashley, is the reason the Jones family became involved with Special Olympics. Ashley first started competing with Special Olympics Illinois as soon as she was old enough to train and compete. Ashley became a top priority within her family. Her parents worked to support her needs and helped as coaches, chaperones and volunteers to help the team.

The Jones family has been involved with Special Olympics for almost 20 years dedicating countless hours as coaches, committee members, volunteers and chaperones for many Special Olympics trainings, competitions, events, fundraisers or activities related to Ashley’s involvement as an athlete. As soon as Ashley became old enough, Mike was there to help coach her. Mike helped coach her in every sport she competed in throughout elementary and high school. Paula has supported and been involved in Ashley’s career as well. They have both served on many local and statewide committees for Special Olympics, helping to reach out to more families and share their knowledge and compassion.

Ashley, now 26, competes in figure skating, gymnastics, alpine skiing, golf and athletics. Mike continues to coach Ashley and her teammates. He attends each practice and travels to all local events and competitions. Ashley has also recently become a Global Messenger. Ashley serves as an ambassador for Special Olympics Illinois. Her family continues to support the organization and attend numerous events.

The Jones family dedicates innumerable hours to Special Olympics Illinois. They continue to support their daughter and the athletes. Their dedication to the organization demonstrates why they deserve to be the Special Olympics Outstanding Family of the Year.

Special Olympics Illinois is a not-for-profit organization offering year-round training and completion in 19 sports for more than 22,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities and more than 20,000 Young Athletes ages 2-7 with and without intellectual disabilities. Special Olympics transforms the lives of people with intellectual disabilities, allowing them to realize their full potential in sports and in life. Special Olympics programs enhance physical fitness, motor skills, self-confidence, social skills, and encourage family and community support. If you are interested in learning more about Special Olympics Illinois, volunteering or providing financial support to help make Special Olympics programs possible, contact your local Special Olympics agency, call 800-394-0562 or visit our website at www.soill.org.


2016 SOILL Lifetime Service Award


 

Doug and Stacy Cottom of Harrisburg will receive the 2016 Special Olympics Illinois’ Outstanding Lifetime Service Award.  They will be honored at a reception June 10 before the Special Olympics Illinois Summer Games Opening Ceremony at Illinois State University in Normal.

The Outstanding Lifetime Service Award is given to an outstanding individual who encompasses the spirit of Special Olympics Illinois and has shown their dedication to the organization and to serving its mission and goals.

FEMA_Cottom_03Doug and Stacy Cottom have welcomed Special Olympics into their bowling facility, Ross Cottom Lanes, for more than 25 years. They have allowed Special Olympics a place to compete for bowling competitions.

The Cottoms have always been very welcoming when Special Olympics Illinois Southeastern/Area 14 comes in for its bowling competitions. They always immediately provide whatever is asked of them. They make absolutely sure that the Special Olympics athletes have a quality competition and a fabulous time. They have always kept games at a reasonable price for Special Olympics. They also provide plenty of volunteers during days of competition.

A few years ago, shortly before the Area bowling competition, the Cottoms townhouse was hit by a tornado, destroying the townhouse and most of their belongings. The Cottoms were injured and lost most of their belongings. That didn’t stop them from continuing their service for the bowling competition. The Cottoms made sure that nothing interfered with the competition knowing how important it was for the athletes.

Ross Cottom Lanes logoIn 2016, Ross Cottom Lanes once again welcomed Special Olympics as the Rend Lake Polar Plunge Pre-Registration Party was held in their lounge with no charge for the facility.

The Cottoms have not just provided a facility, but have been great friends to the athletes and coaches of SOILL Southeastern/Area 14.

Special Olympics Illinois is a not-for-profit organization offering year-round training and competition in 19 sports for more than 22,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities and more than 20,000 Young Athletes ages 2-7 with and without intellectual disabilities. Special Olympics transforms the lives of people with intellectual disabilities, allowing them to realize their full potential in sports and in life. Special Olympics programs enhance physical fitness, motor skills, self-confidence, social skills, and encourage family and community support. If you are interested in learning more about Special Olympics Illinois, volunteering or providing financial support to help make Special Olympics programs possible, contact your local Special Olympics agency, call 800-394-0562 or visit our website www.soill.org.