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50 Years of Stories: Special Olympics 50th Anniversary


It’s been quite a year for Special Olympics Illinois! As we reflect on all the fun the Special Olympics 50th Anniversary Celebration brought to Chicago, we’re reminded of all those who have paved the way for inclusion. Here are their stories.


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SOILL: U.S. FY2020 Budget Proposal & S.O. Funding


UPDATE: 3/28/19: We express our gratitude to President Trump for re-authorizing funding for Special Olympics school-based programming. He joins a long history of over 50 years of United States Presidents and Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle in their support of Special Olympics and the work we do in communities throughout the country.

This is a non-partisan issue and we are proud of our work to create inclusion in 6,500 U.S. schools and among young people. This is a crucial time in our schools and our communities. Programs like Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools are transforming school climates to create a safer and more inclusive world.

We are so grateful for the outpouring of support from Special Olympics athletes, young people, and the community at large and encourage everyone to continue their support of our school-based programming until we have reached all 100,000 schools in the country.

Special Olympics is a nonpartisan organization that strongly supports policies, legislation, and practices that guarantee the rights, full participation, and integration of people with intellectual disabilities (ID).

It is important to note that the presentation of the President’s budget is just one part of the budget process – immediately after it is released, negotiations begin on Capitol Hill. Special Olympics has experienced the proposed elimination of our funding before and, thanks to the phenomenal support of our bipartisan Congressional champions, was able to successfully advocate for and ensure continued funding for critical Special Olympics programming in the U.S.

We see this as an opportunity to continue raising awareness among government officials and our communities about the important work that Special Olympics is doing.

Here in IL:

Here in Illinois, federal funding was critical to initially launching and then expanding our Unified Champion Schools program into 293 total schools (including Pre-Kindergarten, Elementary, Middle, High and College) statewide over the past 10 years. The Unified Champion Schools program has been extremely effective in transforming and improving school climates through its three components: Unified Sports programming, inclusive youth leadership, and whole school engagement activities.  This program has seen impressive success in Illinois and has become the fastest growing program/initiative offered. 

Over the next 3 years, we have lofty goals to reach more than 500 schools around the state, including schools within the Chicago Public Schools educational system and East St. Louis School District 189 through our urban development and expansion initiative. To do that will require more than $3 million in new funding, and we look to our federal and state government, corporate, foundation and individual partners to enable us to achieve these goals.


Torture video provokes the worst of many fears for parents of special-needs kids


Originally Published by the Chicago Tribune

by Patrick Kampert

The cliche among people who have children with special needs is that our most fervent wish is that we will live one minute longer than our children, just long enough to ensure that someone has been at their side as a fierce advocate every moment of their lives.

‘For most of us, it will not happen that way. But it’s still something we think about, especially when crimes like the one captured on video last week, allegedly in a West Side apartment, are committed against our children.

Yet while acts like these are thankfully rare, the obstacles that people with disabilities face are not limited to crime. When our son was born, it was a battle to convince a string of pediatricians that something was wrong. Getting a referral to some wonderful physicians at what is now Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago was relief beyond belief. A diagnosis was given — developmental disabilities resulting from hypoglycemia and seizures — and a plan of treatment was enacted. School bus rides began at the age of 3, for several kinds of therapy.

We lived in an elementary school district where mainstreaming and inclusion was the norm. That enabled other children to accept our son as just another kid. But then came the teen years and the transition to a high school district that housed special-needs kids in a special-education classroom all day with little interaction with so-called “normal” children.

So we fought again, especially my wife, who spent virtually every waking moment with him, and knew our son’s potential. At one meeting, educators asked her, “What are your son’s limits?” Her steely reply: “The sky’s the limit.” Our son got some art classes, and we fought for behind-the-wheel driver’s education. He passed the test for his license at the DMV without any problem. But who wants to hire a special-needs young adult unless it’s simply to push shopping carts? Not many. So, another battle. And, eventually, another victory.

Our son has worked hard on his own as well. The high school that wanted special-needs students to stay hidden away? Our son became co-captain of the track team. When he was 3 or 4, we didn’t know if he would ever walk or talk normally. Now, he has trained ceaselessly to become one of the fastest Special Olympics sprinters in the country and gives speeches for Special Olympics as well.

Most parents advocate for their children, whether they have disabilities or not. But our battles don’t end at a certain age. We see parents in their 60s and 70s faithfully attending their middle-age children’s sporting events in Special Olympics, enjoying the moment, yet always uneasy about how their child will fare without them.

Social media has heightened our unease. We want our children, as best they are able, to make friends and develop a life of their own. Who can be trusted? “You’re meeting Ron at the park to play basketball? Who’s Ron?” Criminals tend to pick on the weak and the vulnerable, as allegedly occurred on the West Side. And when you’ve expended every spare dollar and every last breath to enable your child to have the most “normal” life possible, crimes like these are even more tragic.

Let’s be clear, too, not to paint all special-needs people with the same brush. They come in all colors, shapes, sizes, personalities and IQs. Down syndrome is not the same as autism, which is not the same as other developmental disabilities. Special-needs young people can be kind and loving and generous; they also can be selfish or rude at times. People are people. Our son functions at a fairly high level. Not all do. Yet all functioning levels have their own benefits and challenges.

The alleged perpetrators in this case evidently committed vile, cruel and evil acts. So, too, do those who try to politicize this crime and use it to advance racism. I have African-American friends who would give their lives to save my son’s life if it came down to it, and I would do the same for their children.

As long as there are humans, there will be evil. But how can we incorporate people with special needs into the all-encompassing diversity we need in this world? The inclusion my son experienced in grade school and middle school is a good place to start. So, too, is a fairly new concept from Special Olympics called Unified Sports. In these sports, ranging from soccer to volleyball to speed skating, people without disabilities play on the same teams as those with special needs. They befriend each other and learn that people with disabilities are not so different after all — that they are worthy of respect, acceptance and love.

Yet it does not help when governmental entities, like the state of Illinois, target funds for the disabled as a prime place for budget cuts. It does not help when the state of Texas shamefully guts its special-education program. And it surely does not help when congressional leaders make threats to fundamentally alter Medicare, Medicaid and food-stamp programs. Yes, the disabled rely on these as well, and never so much as when their parents have passed away.
It is said that the true measure of a society is how its treats — and values — its most vulnerable citizens. People with special needs are surely near the top of that list, and their numbers swell every year.

In the speeches that our son shares around the Chicago area, he makes the point that, “If you think about it, we all have special needs in one way or another. Some are just more obvious than others.” What are mine? What are yours? And how can we reach beyond them for love and understanding? May those questions resonate in our hearts long after the video of what happened in Chicago becomes a fuzzy memory.

And may the young man who was attacked last week discover soon — and often — that the people who care about him outnumber the sadists exponentially.

Patrick Kampert is a Chicago writer and a former Chicago Tribune editor and reporter.

Copyright © 2017, Chicago Tribune

Special Olympics Illinois Foundation Board Adds Two New Members


Special Olympics Illinois announces the addition of two new members to the Special Olympics Illinois Foundation Board. The new Foundation board members are James E. Parisi and Raymond W. Bock.

The Special Olympics Illinois Foundation is a 509(a)(3) supporting foundation that supports individuals with intellectual disabilities served by Special Olympics Illinois with an alternative revenue stream in perpetuity.   The Foundation provides resources and support for program innovation and athlete growth for non-recurring budget items such as USA Games and World Games, capital expenses and technology advancement.

James E. Parisi

JamieParisi-1095 1Parisi has served as CME Group’s Chief Financial Officer since 2004.  His responsibilities include oversight of the company’s corporate finance, accounting, investor relations, treasury, real estate, and procurement functions. He has played a leadership role in the completion of more than $20 billion in mergers and acquisitions, including CME’s historic acquisitions of the Chicago Board of Trade in 2007, the New York Mercantile Exchange in 2008, and the Dow Jones Index Business in 2010.

Parisi received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois and a MBA from the University of Chicago.

Raymond W. Bock

Bock is President & CEO of Conversion Energy Systems Inc. of Burr Ridge, which was founded in 2008. He is responsible for overall direction and performance of the company and the full commercialization of the technology, including business plan development and implementation. He has more than 40 years’ experience in the waste management and environmental industry.

Prior to joining CES, Bock was President of Environmental Funding Solutions, Inc., which he started in 2001, to provide financing solutions to long-term funding needs for environmental cleanups mandated by regulations.

From 1995-2001, Bock was President of Enterprise Environmental & Earthworks, Inc. He worked for 20 years at Waste Management Inc. and began his career in waste management  with Bynal Products, Inc.

Bock is a member of the National Solid Waste Management Association. He was a past member of the Special Olympics Illinois Board of Directors for 9 years, serving as Chairman for two years.

He has an associate’s degree from Wright Junior College, Chicago, and has completed specific coursework at Wharton School of Business and Kellogg School of Business.

Parisi and Bock join the following people on the Special Olympics Illinois Foundation Board:

  • Hub Arkush, General Manager & Editor, Chicago Football
  • Dave Breen, President & CEO of Special Olympics Illinois, Normal
  • Frank Burke, Managing Director of Aon Risk Solutions, Chicago
  • Jerry Cole, CEO of Waste Gasification Systems, Chicago
  • Anthony Coletta, Senior VP Corporate Finance of Prudential Capital Group, Chicago
  • Robert DiMeo, Managing Director & Co-Founder of DiMeo Schneider & Associates, Chicago
  • Dan Doheny, Chief Financial Officer of Reyes Holdings, Rosemont
  • Doug Donovan, Senior Vice President of GE Capital, Chicago
  • Jerry Dyson, Partner of @ Properties Gold Coast, Chicago
  • Jenny Fortner, Managing Director of Goldman Sachs & Co., Chicago
  • Phil Fowler, Director of Tribler Orpett & Meyer PC, Chicago
  • Don Gereau, CEO of GT Mobility, Galena
  • Julie Gustafson, Senior Vice President of U.S. Trust, Bank of America Private Wealth Management, Chicago
  • Mike Kuhlin, Director of Communications, Voyage Financial Group, Lisle
  • Dan Lange, Senior Vice President, Illinois Region Head of Wells Fargo Bank, NA, Chicago
  • Jay Leonard, Vice President of Bernstein Global Wealth, Chicago
  • John McDonough, President & CEO, Chicago Blackhawks
  • Jim Pieper, Chief Accounting Officer, TransUnion, Chicago
  • Ed Rafferty, Superintendent of Schaumburg School District, Palatine
  • David Shane, Partner of FGMK, LLC, Bannockburn

Special Olympics Illinois is a not-for-profit organization offering year-round training and competition in 19 sports for nearly 21,00 traditional athletes with intellectual disabilities and more than 18,500 Young Athletes ages 2-7 with and without intellectual disabilities. Special Olympics changes lives by empowering people with intellectual disabilities 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


Michele Evans, Special Olympics Illinois, 309-660-8497

SOILL Announces New Members to Board of Directors


Special Olympics Illinois announces the election of four new members to its Board of Directors at the board’s October meeting. The new members include two labor leaders and two with extensive experience in the health care industry.

The new board members are Terrence J. Hancock, Jorge Ramirez, Sharon Rossmark and Brian D. Vandenberg.

Terrence J. Hancock

Hancock,Terry14Hancock is President of Teamsters Local 731 and Vice President of Teamsters Joint Council 25 representing labor interests in Chicago and Northwest Indiana. He will serve on the Marketing & Development Committee of the SOILL Board.

Hancock joined the ranks of Teamsters Local Union 731 in 1979 as a rank-and file semi- dump tractor/trailer chauffeur. In 1989, he was appointed as Business Representative of Teamster Local 731 and was later appointed Recording Secretary. In 1997, Hancock rose to the position of Secretary-Treasurer. In 2005, he was overwhelmingly elected President and Principal Officer by the rank-and-file membership.

He was appointed to serve as an International Representative assigned to the IBT Construction Division located in Washington, D.C., in 1999. In 2007, Hancock was elected to serve as Trustee of Teamsters Joint Council 25 and, in 2008, was elected Recording Secretary prior to becoming Vice President.

Hancock serves as Co-Chairman on the Board of Trustees of the Illinois Teamsters/ Employers Apprenticeship and Training Fund and has been appointed to the Executive Board of the Chicago Federation of Labor. He also serves as Trustee of the Italian American Labor Council, as well as a Delegate of the Amalgamated Bank Labor Council Illinois/ Metropolitan Chapter.

Hancock’s proudest achievement is his position of President/Director of the “In Search of a Cure” charitable organization in honor of his son who has autism.

Jorge Ramirez

Ramirez,JorgeRamirez is President of the Chicago Federation of Labor and will serve on the Marketing & Development Committee of the SOILL Board.

Ramirez was elected President of the Chicago Federation of Labor in 2010. Previously, he had served as Secretary-Treasurer of the federation. In 2006, he was elected Vice President and served as Executive Director of Local 1546 of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, representing nearly 30,000 members in Chicago and throughout Illinois.

Ramirez has served on the Cook County Health and Hospitals System Board of Directors as Vice Chairman since 2008. In 2012, he was named to the Chicago Infrastructure Trust board and the Cook County President’s Council of Economic Advisors.

He also currently serves on the boards of the U.S Department of Labor, Illinois Department of Labor, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, Choose Chicago, Navy Pier Inc., the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership, Mercy Home for Boys and Girls, United Way of Metropolitan Chicago and Archdiocese of Chicago Office for Immigration Affairs.

Ramirez received a law degree from the Chicago-Kent College of Law. In 1993, he graduated as a student scholarship athlete from the University of Texas at El Paso, where he double majored in marketing and computer information systems. He was also a four-year letterman in football.

Sharon Rossmark

Rossmark,Sharon Rossmark14Rossmark is President and CEO of Zayos Global Ventures, and will serve on the Sports Training & Competition and Board Governance & Membership committees of the SOILL Board. She has 30 years’ experience in the insurance and financial services industry.

She is also vice chairman of the board of directors for the Sinai Health System, Chicago. In July, she was appointed to serve as chairman of the board of directors for the National Children’s Center in Washington, D.C.

Additionally, Rossmark serves on the American Hospital Association’s Midwest Regional Policy Board and on the College of Business Advisory Council at Illinois State University. She recently completed her term as a governance expert on the editorial advisory board of the Journal of Patient Safety.

Rossmark, of Northbrook, is a member of the National Association of Corporate Directors, and has earned the Governance Fellow designation.

She received her bachelor’s degree from Illinois State University, Normal, where she has endowed a scholarship to support U.S. military soldiers and veterans majoring in business. Rossmark received her master’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Illinois-Chicago.

Brian D. Vandenberg

Vandenberg,Brian14Vandenberg is Executive Vice President & General Counsel of Origin Healthcare Solutions and is also General Counsel of 7wire Ventures and its portfolio companies. Vandenberg of Lake Forest will serve on the Sports Competition & Training Committee of the SOILL Board.

Previously, he was Senior Vice President and General Counsel of Allscripts Healthcare Solutions. Before that, he was General Counsel and Senior Vice President of Corporate Development at uBid Inc.  Vandenberg also served as chief executive of two sports management and marketing companies.

Vandenberg is also on the Board of Directors for the Chicago Children’s Choir. He serves on the Board of Directors and was Past President of Lake Forest High School Boosters and served on the Centennial Campaign Committee for University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Foundation.

He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and his law degree from DePaul University College of Law.

About Special Olympics Illinois

Special Olympics Illinois is a not-for-profit organization offering year-round training and competition in 19 sports for nearly 21,500 athletes with intellectual disabilities and more than 18,500 Young Athletes ages 2-7 with and without intellectual disabilities. Special Olympics transforms lives by empowering people with intellectual disabilities 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


Michele Evans, Special Olympics Illinois, 309-660-8497