Traditional Stories

Lisa Menichino Kicks off the CCIW Women’s Tennis Championship with the Opening Serve


Saturday, October 19, marked an exciting day for long-time tennis player Lisa Menichino. Lisa kicked off the College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin (CCIW) Women’s Tennis Championship with an honorary serve.

She has been competing with Special Olympics Illinois since 1985. Lisa cherishes Special Olympics for many reasons, some of which provided Lisa the opportunity to play sports, including tennis.

Lisa was honored to take part in such an inclusive event. The experience was exhilarating as it was her first time at a tennis championship of this caliber.

“The CCIW was honored to have Special Olympics Illinois athlete Lisa Menichino on hand to kick off the final day of the 2019 CCIW Women’s Tennis Championship on October 19,” CCIW Assistant Executive Director Mike Krizman said.

At the event, Lisa said a few inspiring words to the crowd, wished the group good luck, and prepared for her honorary serve.

Lisa’s 20 years of tennis experience did not let her down as she served to Carroll University’s No. 1 singles player, Grace Krueger.

“She truly embodies all of the wonderful traits that being a Special Olympics athlete is all about, and we were honored to have her as our guest.”

Special Olympics Illinois and CCIW built a partnership in 2012. The connection was established through a bocce ball clinic between Special Olympics Illinois and the CCIW Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC). The clinic is held annually in conjunction with CCIW’s end-of-the-year SAAC meeting.

“We’re proud of our partnership with Special Olympics Illinois,” Krizman continued. “The CCIW looks forward to growing that partnership through additional collaboration and participation in the future.”

View Lisa’s Honorary Serve here!

Outdoor Sports Festival


Softball at Outdoor Sports Festival has been cancelled due to rain and unplayable field conditions. Golf is currently still running.

WHEN: September 7, 2019-September 8 2019
WHERE: Rotary Park & Hickory Point Golf Course Decatur, IL, USA
CONTACT: Nate Henry 309-888-2574 EMAIL


What is Outdoor Sports Festival?

Outdoor Sports Festival is one of 9 state sports competitions. It is the final competition for those participating in Softball and Golf. Young Athletes will have the opportunity to participate in both softball skills and golf skills. Over 600 athletes compete over this weekend and bring the joy of sport to Decatur.


SITE: Rotary Park & Hickory Point Golf Course, Decatur, IL

  • Softball –  Rotary Park
  • Golf – Hickory Point Golf Course
  • Young Athletes – Rotary Park / Hickory Point Golf Course

Volunteer Opportunities

Special Olympics Illinois needs your help as a volunteer for our Outdoor Sports Festival in Decatur. We are looking for volunteers to help at the Golf and Softball venues on Saturday and Sunday. If you are interested in volunteering click on one of the links below for the date and venue you want to register for and you can sign up online. If you want to register for more then one shift, then once you are logged into our system you can pick the next date and venue from the drop down menu.

Volunteer Saturday - Golf    Volunteer Saturday - Softball

Volunteer Sunday - Golf           Volunteer Sunday - Softball


Softball & Softball Skills

Softball teams come together from throughout the state for their final games at the Outdoor Sports Festival. All the teams have worked hard to get here, competing in numerous games throughout the year. In order to advance to the Outdoor Sports Festival teams must win gold at their District Competition. Come on out and cheer them on to victory!

Individual Skills competition will also be offered where individuals will demonstrate their skills in base running, throwing, fielding and hitting. They will be competing against others within divisions for the best scores.

Athletes may compete in Individual Skills competition or Team competition, not both.


Swing into the game with golf at the Outdoor Sports Festival. This represents the final tournament for our golfers as they show off their love of the game and demonstrate the skills they have developed. Athletes may compete in Individual Skills Competition, 3-Hole Competition, 6-Hole Competition or 9-Hole Competition. Athletes may choose 1 event. Athletes/Partners competing in Unified Golf may only compete in Unified Competition.

OSF Golf 1Competitors are expected to walk during the competition. Request for use of a power cart must be made to the Director of Sports and Competition at the time of the entry deadline. Requests will be handled on an individual basis and proof of medical need will be required from a doctor. Unapproved cart usage will result in disqualification.

Individual Skills athletes will be showing off their Golf skills in short & long putt, chip shot, pitch shot and iron & wood shot. They will be competing against others within divisions for the best scores.

Tentative Competition Times

All times listed below are tentative and subject to change once event specific schedules are determined. Times only reflect actual competition times and do not include time frames for coach meetings, weigh-in times, etc. For a final schedule please check the Supporting Documents section close to competition day.


  • Saturday, 10am – 5:30pm
  • Sunday, 8am – 3:30pm


  • Saturday, 9am-4pm
  • Sunday, 9am-12pm

Golf Live Scoring Links

Young Athletes

Young Athletes aged 6 and 7 will be invited to participate and showcase their talent in Decatur!  Young Athletes will have the opportunity to participate in Softball Individual Skills and for the first time Golf Individual Skills.

Opening Ceremony

OSF OC 2The Opening Ceremony is always one of the highlights of any Special Olympics Games and the tradition holds steady at the Outdoor Sports Festival. The Opening Ceremony will be held in Central Park in downtown Decatur. There will be entertainment followed by the grand entrance of the Torch Run and lighting of the cauldron. After the Opening Ceremony, athletes and coaches will parade in a stately march  to the Decatur Civic Center where dinner will be served.

Teams will be able to drop off athletes at Central Park then park at the Civic Center. Drop off begins at 5:45pm and the Opening Ceremony will begin at 6:15pm.


Souvenir information coming soon!


Stop by the family registration area at either of the competition venues to receive you event packet and a raffle ticket for the FREE Raffle. Don’t forget to wear your credentials.  Hours are as follows:OSF Awards


  • 8:30am – 4:00pm      Saturday
  • 8:00am – 11:00am     Sunday


  • 8:30am – 2:00pm      Saturday


Victory Dance

Let’s dance! The dance will take place at the Decatur Civic Center after dinner on Saturday, September 7 from 8-9 pm. There will be a DJ to play music and plenty of room to dance or sit as needed. Souvenir items can also be purchased at the dance, so make sure to stop by and pick up your OSF memorabilia before it’s gone!


In case of inclement weather, schedule changes or cancellations check the website here for updates. You can also subscribe to our text alert system by texting “Outdoor” to 77453.


Supporting Documents

Just Keep Swimming – One Athlete’s Journey to Gold


Special Olympics gold medalist Amanda Bratton on family, motivation, and winning it all

By: Lauren Hankins & Ellie Dennis

SEATTLE  — Amanda Bratton has always loved the feeling of water.

As a child, one of Amanda’s favorite activities was to submerge herself underwater to see how deep she could swim. The deeper she got, the more comfortable she felt. On the surface, her parents and the lifeguards on duty would often worry as she held herself underwater. However, she knew she was destined for a life in the water from the moment she experienced it.

Amanda was born with Complex Partial Seizure Disorder, also known as epilepsy. Although her epilepsy has been controlled through medication, the notion that Amanda may at any time experience a seizure while performing in the sport she fell in love with has always been in the back of her parents’ minds.

Despite some of her worries, Cristy Bratton, Amanda’s mother, believes that the joy Amanda receives in swimming far outweighs the negative possibilities. And her love for the sport as well as her incredible success has only grown since her beginnings in competitive swimming at 11 years old.

Amanda & her medals ©Wes Bratton

Over the past 14 years, Amanda has achieved top marks in various high school and collegiate competitions. Her proudest accomplishments, though, came when she won the gold in the 200-yard individual medley and 100-yard freestyle at the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games.

To reach the pinnacle of success and earn a gold medal required an immense amount of work and dedication. Her ability to walk into a race without fear or nervousness allowed Amanda to compete with tenacity and focus. Amanda’s dedication to swimming is unparalleled – she lives for it and winning events has long brought her feelings of happiness and accomplishment.

While achieving success in high school excited Amanda, winning at the Special Olympics Games provided an experience like no other. “Winning a [gold medal]… It feels like success,” Amanda said, “like I’ve accomplished something.”

Throughout the years, Cristy watched as her daughter’s hard work and perseverance paid off. When Amanda won the gold medal, Cristy said that “she was beaming. She wore her medals for days: at school and work.”

A perfect example of Amanda’s ambitious character and strong will came in her first year of competitive swimming. Around Valentine’s Day, Amanda broke her collarbone and was told she would most likely need to sit out of the remaining competition. Despite the intense pain radiating from her shoulder, Amanda still opted to compete later that year —  she has never been one to back down.

Her dedication to her sport is unwavering. For nearly a decade and a half, Amanda has kept a steady practice and cardio routine to stay both competitive and in shape. Growing up, Amanda was inspired by her dad, Wes Bratton, who competed in both high school and college swimming. Wes is still an avid swimmer and currently competes at the Masters level, a league that combines a wide age-range of swimmers into one competition. When Amanda visits home in Seattle, her dad also helps her plan and practice, creating a foundation for the success she still utilizes.

While the inspiration instilled in her through her parents has directed her onto the path towards success, another familial connection has motivated her to compete harder and perform her best. Amanda’s younger sister, Lisa Bratton, currently holds an athletic scholarship for swimming at Texas A&M. Amanda and her sister have always competed against each other, inspiring and motivating each other to always give it they’re all.

Amanda finishes her race ©Wes Bratton

Growing up with the friendly competition against her sister prepared Amanda for the atmosphere of  Special Olympics. Amanda describes the environment as “relaxed,” and “friendly”. Although she becomes instantly focused and determined once in the pool, she has a knack for remaining calm and collected – mirroring the environment at Special Olympics.

Her mother describes Special Olympics as an amazing place, an “area where anyone can compete and have fun in.” On top of this welcoming atmosphere, at the end of the two-day event, competitors are invited to a dance in celebration for their accomplishments.

The competitions are run by volunteers who hope to provide athletes a rewarding and competitive experience. Nonetheless, all participants are accomplished at Special Olympics, both for their incredible feats in their sport as well as their happiness to share the joy of competition.

In her quest to always compete, and to always give every competition her all, Amanda’s spirit mirrors that of Special Olympics and all of the competitors that participate in it. In spite of barriers, broken bones, and fierce familial competition, Amanda’s passion to compete for parallels that of the Special Olympics athlete oath: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”






Meet Katie Millar: Powerlifting Champion and Leader


Illinois native stands out in a male-dominated sport

APRIL 3, 2018

BY: Sudie Canada, Gabriella Robison- Sudie and Gabbi are Public Relations students at Pepperdine University.

CHICAGO — Katie Millar is an inspirational woman. Her continued success in powerlifting, a traditionally male-dominated sport, is a testament to her determination and confidence.

“When she competes locally, there are maybe 12 girls total out of 150 guys,” says Judy Kasmer-Millar, Katie’s mother. But this ratio does not intimidate Katie in the slightest. Even as a beginner, she quickly started adding weight to surpass personal bests. However, Katie’s success comes as no surprise given her athletic prowess. She has been chosen to participate in the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle this summer.

Katie Millar at the 2017 Northeastern Illinois District Competition. Photo Credit: Judy Kasmer-Millar.

Katie has been involved in sports from a young age; but in high school, Katie was told she might as well quit because she would be riding the bench. This only motivated Katie to continue playing the sports she loves. Katie joined the Special Recreation Association of Lake County (SRACLC) where she competed in almost every sport imaginable including baseball, soccer, swimming, and even snowshoeing. After competing through the SRACLC, Katie began training for Special Olympics in 2003.

Powerlifting is Katie’s most recent competitive sport, and she has thrived as the only girl on her seven-member team. She quickly took to the sport and excelled in bench pressing. Kelly Smith, her former coach, put it best by calling Katie her “gold digger.” Katie won three gold medals at the Illinois Special Olympics State Summer Games in 2017. “My favorite thing would have to be the bench. I went up in weight last year,” says Katie.

When asked how Katie’s participation in Special Olympics has affected her, Kasmer-Millar responded, “It instills the participants with a confidence that they have not had before.” Katie currently lives independently with three roommates as a result of the education, training, and support of Special Olympics.

Katie’s passion for athletics on and off the field led her to an internship at Northwestern University in the athletic department. She was able to receive college credit, only adding to her impressive list of accomplishments. Katie also works at Sears in receiving and at Jewel, a regional supermarket.

Katie’s ambition is not limited to athletic endeavors, and her influence in her local community is undeniable. Katie has joined the Mundelein Police Department in the annual Polar Plunge for the past three years to raise money for Special Olympics. “Katie has a positive attitude. She laughs and smiles and when you can get her into that mood she’ll melt your heart,” says Katie’s mother. It is no surprise that she has so much hometown support.

Katie’s leadership expands beyond Mundelein, Illinois. She serves as a Special Olympics Illinois Global Messenger to speak to audiences about how Special Olympics empowers people with intellectual disabilities. Her former coach, Brenden Cannon, recommended Katie after seeing a need for a new crop of global messengers. The Millars view Katie’s role as a way to give back to Special Olympics.

Katie’s position as a Global Messenger has contributed to her personal and professional development. Katie’s mother is her official speech coach and has given her the skills she needs to channel her positive energy and passion for Special Olympics when speaking in front of large crowds. Katie says, “It is nerve racking to talk in front of people, but I get really good feedback.”

This confidence permeates what could be a divisive competitive environment. Gender imbalances often present challenges, but Katie and her powerlifting team treat each other as equals. Rather than being intimidated as only one of twenty female powerlifters in the state, she feels a strong sense of camaraderie and equality with teammates. “I feel like I’m the same,” says Katie. For her, this is one of many reasons that makes Special Olympics truly special.

Katie Millar at the 2013 Special Olympics Illinois Summer Games.
Photo Credit: Judy Kasmer-Millar

Katie Millar inspires women of all ages and backgrounds in her powerlifting career. The woman we see today is not only an impressive athlete but also an example of leadership. Kelly Smith says in an email, “Each woman brings her own goals, determination, and passion to the sport. I would think little girls (with and without disabilities) would see these women lifting competitively and say, ‘Why not me? I can do that too. I want to be as strong and powerful as her.’”

Katie will help celebrate the Special Olympics 50th Anniversary at celebrations from 17-21 July in Chicago, Ill., where the first Special Olympics International Summer Games were held in 1968. She will use her shining personality as a greeter for participants, their families, and all those in attendance. Events include a four-day Special Olympics Unified Cup soccer match, which will bring together competitors with and without intellectual disabilities from every region of the world.

Special Olympics Illinois athlete and Global Messenger Jose Moreno wants you to join him at the 50th Anniversary in Chicago!


Jose will be competing in Unified Bocce this week at the Special Olympics Illinois Summer Games in Bloomington-Normal. Good luck Jose!