Region G Stories Stories

Athlete Finds Unique Way to Raise Money for Polar Plunge – Collecting, Recycling Cans


Special Olympics Illinois athlete Jacob Cross of Bloomington is looking forward to repeating the Polar Plunge at Bloomington’s Miller Park on Feb. 25, 2017. Jacob has come up with a rather unique way of raising the minimum $100 to participate in the event that helps both Special Olympics and the environment.

IMG 3517 WebJacob plunged in 2016 with his Special Olympics team from Tri-Valley High School (he’s pictured above in back row wearing a blue wig). Afterward, he told his mother, Julie, he wanted to do it again in 2017. She told him “If you want to this again, let’s try to raise $100 by recycling cans. Why not see how much we can collect?”

Jacob was all in. He already had experience collecting aluminum cans; he had collected cans as a cool-down in the local parks after track practices.

He started with purpose over the summer and ramped up his efforts this fall. He visits local public parks to collect the cans and takes them to a local recycling plant to exchange for cash. “Right now, aluminum cans are getting 30 to 35 cents per pound,” said Julie Cross.

As Jacob’s friends and family have heard of his fundraising efforts, they have been collecting cans and recyclables for him. “We even had someone give us tires so we can recycle the rims,” said Julie. “Now we just have to figure out how to get the tires off the rims,” she said with a chuckle.

IMG 1511 WebJacob, 26, has been a Special Olympics athlete since he was about 10 years old. He has concentrated on swimming through the years, deviating to athletics (track & field) for two years. He started swimming with Special Opportunities Available in Recreation (SOAR) as a boy, swam with Bloomington Parks & Recreations summer team and then swam on the boys’ swim team at Bloomington High School. He now swims with the Tri-Valley team because their practice times fit best into the family’s schedule, his mother said.

As of mid-November, Jacob had collected $175 for the Polar Plunge. Jacob has the second tier of Plunge fundraising in his sights – if he raises $275, he’ll qualify for the exclusive Polar Plunge water bottle in addition to the Plunge sweatshirt he’ll get for raising the $100 minimum. If he gets to $500, he’ll also qualify for the Polar Plunge backpack in addition to the water bottle and sweatshirt.

Register for the 2017 Polar Plunge at any of the 22 locations and give athletes like Jacob the opportunity to transform their lives through Special Olympics.

By Michele Evans, Director of Communications

2 Illinois Softball Teams Compete at SONA Invitational Tournament


Special Olympics Illinois was represented by 26 athletes and Unified partners on two softball teams at the 2016 Special Olympics North America Softball Invitational Tournament Aug. 18-21 in Roanoke, Va.

Representing Illinois were:

  • Tri-County Unified of Peoria (pictured above) – Athletes and Partners: Chad Broomfield, Darren Darr, Thomas Dault, Bernard Harms, Logan Heberer, Stephen Knipmeyer, Steve Lawson, Steven Lawson, John McLaughlin, Robert Reese, Ryan Stear, Larry Woods and Christopher Worden; Coaches: William Hopkins, Victoria Kipmeyer, Barbara Needham and Larry Needham; 2nd place
  • Wolverines from Pathway Services Wolverines of Jacksonville (pictured below) – Athletes: Tim Beals, Chad Bollinger, Kevin Bush, Gary Crawley, Willis Dickey, Sammy Flagg, Willis Grosclaude, John Henderson, Vincent Lobby, Jesse Mattern, Willie Mayes, Tony Rouleau and Nick Wedeking; Coaches: Doug Binkley, Michelle Larkin and Richard Larkin, Erin Mattes; 4th  place

About 450 Special Olympics athletes and 100 coaches representing 32 teams from across the United States and Canada competed. Teams were from Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Vermont and Wisconsin. Competition included both traditional Special Olympics teams and Special Olympics Unified Sports teams (people with and without intellectual disabilities playing on the same team).

The tournament was made possible by Presenting Sponsor Moose International and lead sponsors ASA/USA Softball, Coca-Cola and Special Olympics Virginia, Roanoke Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau, the City of Salem, the City of Roanoke and Botetourt County.


Special Olympics is a Family Affair for Davis Family


Hayden Davis of Washington and his family have been involved with Special Olympics Illinois Heartland/Area 6 since 2002. Hayden, a 23-year-old athlete with the Tazewood Warriors Special Olympics team, has participated in five different sports throughout his time with Special Olympics.


Hayden Davis competes in 4×400-meter relay race at 2016 Summer Games

Hayden participated in the 4×400-meter relay race at the 2016 Summer Games at Illinois State University. Since he began in 2002, he has also participated in the 100-meter run, softball throw, snowshoe and bowling. During the 2015 Winter Games in Galena, Hayden earned a gold medal in the 400-meter snowshoe.

Because of Hayden’s participation year-round, Special Olympics has been a major part of the Davis family’s lives. Sharla, Hayden’s mother, is a key member of the Heartland/Area 6 Family Action Network. “When I learned about the Family Network, I was excited to get involved. Being part of the Family Network helps you be part of making Special Olympics a better organization,” said Sharla.

Sharla and her husband, Tim, are always looking for ways to help and do everything that they can to support Special Olympics. They attend all of Hayden’s events and take on a volunteer role whenever they can.

Special Olympics has been a growing experience for both Hayden and his family. “At first, it was challenging for Hayden to wait for his turn to participate in an event and while he waited for his award. As years have passed, his patience has improved immensely. He now understands the process and is willing to wait,” said Sharla.

Hayden Davis worked with local officers at the Pekin Dunkin' Donuts Cop on Rooftop event

Hayden Davis worked with local officers at the Pekin Dunkin’ Donuts Cop on Rooftop event

The Davises have noticed a growing independence with their son. When Hayden first began Special Olympics, he did not want Sharla to leave while he was at practice. Now he does not want her to stay at practice at all.

“Growing has been just as much of a process for the parents as it is for the athletes,” Sharla said of the Special Olympics families. “Families experience Special Olympics just as much as the athletes. We see things that go well and things that can be improved.”

The Davis family plans to continue their participation and support with Special Olympics Illinois and they hope that other families choose to do the same.

By Megan Jensen, Communications Intern

‘It Makes Your Heart Sing’


Republished with permission of The Pantagraph, Bloomington, Ill. 

By Bruce Yentes

NORMAL — Not even a searing sun, baking the Illinois State University athletic fields in 90-degree heat, could melt the smiles from the faces of some 4,000 athletes participating this weekend in the Special Olympics Illinois Summer Games.

Mason Krischel competes in the walk race

Mason Krischel competes in the walk race

They included the smiles that Paula Krischel of Dwight knew would come to her sons Mason, 21, and Adin, 16, when she and two other residents of the Livingston County community recently banded together to form a Special Olympics team in Dwight.

“It makes your heart sing,” said Krischel, amid a throng of athletes, coaches and volunteers at Horton Field House as the Games got underway Friday, June 10.  “It’s so amazing to watch all of these kids participate.

“It’s not really the competitive part of it. It’s just watching these kids trying to do their best and having fun doing it. They’re so innocent, so loving and they’re out there having fun.”

The parents have their share of fun, as well. That included Shelley Peck as she watched her daughter Taylor, 13, participate in the 100-meter walk on the ISU track.

“I was really into it,” said Peck. “I was excited for Taylor to get to compete today. She gets really nervous, so we just cheer her on and let her know it’s all about having a good time.”


Taylor Peck, 13, is congratulated by her parents Shelly and Chris Peck of Dwight, following Taylor’s finish of the 100-meter walk race.                       Photo by Steve Smedley, The Pantagraph

Peck and April Norton joined with Krischel to form the Dwight team. Norton’s daughter, Angel, 16, is also a Special Olympics athlete.

The team has been three years in the making and on its own for just the past year.

“I feel like there’s not really a lot out there as far as high schools go for the special needs kids,” Krischel said of starting the team in Dwight. “There’s a need for those who want to participate and want to do sports that the kids in high school can do.

“Special Olympics is the best organization to get that accomplished, to let them have that feeling of confidence and self-worth and to meet people and build a bond with the teammates that they have.”

That bond extends to the families as well.

Aiden Krischel competes in the softball throw

Adin Krischel competes in the softball throw

“It was nice to meet parents that walk the same walk that we do in life with our kids,” said Peck. “We try to do a lot of get-togethers. The kids have fun together and they like each other. We do Dairy Queen trips on the fly and stuff like that.”

The women have devoted a lot of hours and expense to get the Dwight team established.

“It started from scratch, but we’re getting there and hopefully we can build and allow other people from Livingston County to join us,” Krischel said. “There’s lots and lots of paperwork. I’m a stay-at-home mom, so I can do a lot of it during the day.”

There’s also meetings with Special Olympics officials and training involved.

“We take lots of trips to Bloomington for meetings every month,” Peck said. “We just finished coaches’ training at Millikin University in Decatur last weekend.”

The paperwork, meetings and training all came to fruition when the team joined others from across the state for this weekend’s Summer Games, which continue through Sunday.

Dwight Special Olympics families watch their athletes compete at Summer Games

Dwight Special Olympics families watch their athletes compete at Summer Games

“Even the strangers here are like family because there’s a lot of love out there,” said Krischel. “It’s a feeling of connection with all of these kids. I want to continue to get more and more involved, to branch out. I’m really excited and I can’t wait to see where we go from here.”

Peck, too, is determined to see the Dwight program grow.

“It’s great for children like Taylor and other people with intellectual disabilities to be a part of something as big as this,” she said. “They feel special, they feel important, they feel like they are the top, number one athlete. They’re happy to be here and it’s an awesome feeling to be a part of it.”

Area News – May 2016


Far West Suburban/Area 2

29th Annual Midwest Golf Celebrity Pro-Am

The 29th Annual Midwest Golf Celebrity Pro-Am to benefit Far West Suburban/Area 2 will be June 20 at The Royal Fox Country Club in St. Charles.

Molly Sosnowski,

Molly Sosnowski, Eric Soderholm and Kevin Mikan at the 2015 Midwest Golf Celebrity Pro-Am.

The format for this year’s event will match professional athletes, and other celebrities with amateur foursomes in a scramble format tournament. Some of the celebrities expected to attend are Eric Soderholm, Cliff Levingston, Ronnie Bull, Ike Hill, Bob Parsons, Paul Popovich and Jim Thornton.

Registration begins at 9 a.m., with a shotgun start at 10:30 a.m. There will be cocktails and a dinner/auction after the day’s golfing.

This event offers attendees the opportunity to join the network of corporations and individuals who contribute to the success of thousands of Special Olympics athletes in the Chicagoland area. Please join us this year as a sponsor or individual golfer, or if you can’t attend, consider making a financial contribution.

For more information, contact Amy Kaylor at 630-377-7250. View event registration flyer.

Chicago/Area 3

Young Professionals Board Pub Crawl Raises Funds for Area 3

Team USA photoMore than 175 people showed up on Saturday, April 23, for the 11th Annual Young Professionals Board Pub Crawl. Pub Crawl guests visited seven pubs in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago and enjoyed drink and food specials throughout the day. Warm weather contributed to a fun afternoon enjoyed in a historic part of Chicago. The event concluded with food donated by Chipotle and a fun raffle.

Event co-chairs Kaitlyn Rosen and Mae Rodovitch and their planning committee arranged a fabulous raffle featuring tickets to comedy clubs, bowling parties, gift cards to spas and salons as well as gift cards to more than a dozen Chicago restaurants. Several guests were awarded best costume as part of the Team America theme and received restaurant gift cards in recognition. The event raised more than $4,600 to support athletes who participate in the Chicago/Area 3 program.

The Young Professionals Board (YPB) was formed in 2005 to raise funds for Special Olympics Illinois Chicago/Area 3.  For more information, contact Kathy McLaughlin.

Heartland/Area 6

Lip Sync Battle to Benefit Area 6

LipSynclogo4Special Olympics Illinois Heartland/Area 6 and the Law Enforcement Torch Run are hosting a Lip Sync Battle on Aug. 11. This inaugural event will feature Central Illinois celebrities who will “sing” their hearts out against other local celebrities to raise money and awareness for our Area 6 athletes and their families.

Lip Sync contestants will perform to one of their favorite songs for the audience, who will in turn vote for their favorite acts with a donation. They are encouraged to wear costumes and can invite friends or family to be their backup singers/dancers! In addition, Best Costume and “Keep Your Day Job” awards will be presented.

The Lip Sync Battle will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Aug. 11 at Mackinaw Valley Vineyard. The Vineyard will be selling its wine and beer selections throughout the evening. Tickets are $20 per person and can be purchased online.

For more information please contact Mollie Knutson or Jordan Vose.

East Central/Area 9

Coach of the Year Awarded at Spring Games

Windsor Schools team

Windsor Schools team

For the first time, Special Olympics Illinois Eastern Central/Area 9 recognized a coach with an award which recognizing the coach’s outstanding leadership abilities, volunteerism and dedication to Special Olympics sports programs at Spring Games.

The Area 9 Coach of the Year award was presented to Terry Prasun, head Special Olympics coach of the Windsor Schools team.

“The decision as to which of the 82 head coaches in the Area should win the inaugural Coach of the Year award was not an easy decision by any means,” said Vanessa Duncan, Area Director. “This decision was most difficult because of the many superstar coaches that lead, train, and love our Special Olympics Area 9 athletes.”

Prasun is an admired coach who trains her athletes in four sports throughout the year, including athletics (track & field), bocce, basketball and bowling. Read More

Little Brooklyn Raises BIG Support

Brooklyn Schutte, a second-grade athlete of the Neoga/Sigel Indians Special Olympics team, loves to run, loves to smile, and loves to support Special Olympics Illinois East Central/Area 9.

Brooklyn Schutte

Brooklyn Schutte

Brooklyn competed in the 100-meter race and the softball throw event at the 2016 East Central/Area 9 Spring Games at Eastern Illinois University, earning a medal in both of events.  But not only is Brooklyn an amazing athlete, she is also a fierce fundraiser for Area 9.

During the past two years, Brooklyn, her parents and family members have hosted fundraisers to provide financial support so that Area 9 can continue to offer free sports training and competitions, as well as add competition and family events. Last year, Brooklyn’s family was able to donate $871 from various fundraising efforts.

This year, they almost doubled their donation to East Central/Area 9 with a total of $1,570. Read More

North Suburban Cook/Area 18

Volunteering at Special Olympics a Tradition for Schwantz Family

Cook/Area 18 Spring Games were no exception. Amongst these volunteers were Austin Schwantz, a junior at Fremd High School, who recruited his fellow football teammates to help with set-up and tear down of Area 18 Spring Games at Prospect High School in Mt. Prospect.

Austin Schwantz and his football team at Fremd

Austin Schwantz and his football teammates from Fremd High School at the Palatine Polar Plunge

Austin is no stranger to volunteering. He helps coach the Blue Jays Special Olympics basketball team with some of his teammates who have siblings with special needs.

This winter he looked to expand his efforts. He wanted to further give back in a way that could also bond his team so he registered for the 2016 Palatine Polar Plunge. While they were reluctant at first, the football coaches helped to empower the team stating that if the team plunged, they would plunge, too. The Fremd Football went on to raise $3,000.

“The kids and coaches had such a great time, the coach is looking to making this a team event every year,” Austin’s mom, Brenda Schwantz, said. “It was all any of them could talk about for the next day.”

Volunteering is something Austin may have learned from his parents, Brenda and Jim Schwantz. Read More

Palatine High School Fundraiser Goes the Distance

On April 23, Palatine High School hosted Distance Night in Palatine – an event deigned to bring the best high school runners together from throughout Illinois and the Midwest while raising money for charity.

2016Area18-DistanceNight-0269Distance Night in Palatine is a unique fusion of elite distance racing, music and fun. Races included the 800-, 1,600- and 3,200-meter distances as well as an 800-meter race for Special Olympics Illinois athletes.

“This race allows us to celebrate the true meaning of competition – to run to the best of your ability,” said Chris Quick, Palatine High School English teacher.

Quick was inspired by his brother, Chad, who competed in wheelchair races and more through Special Olympics during his childhood.

“It is because of him that I chose to make Special Olympics the primary beneficiary of our event,” Quick explains. “Our goal is to bring both financial support and awareness to Special Olympics.”

The Special Olympics 800 took place right before the “Main Event” races later in the evening and the participating athletes received a warm introduction prior to running.

This year’s event raised $1,870 for the athletes of Special Olympics Illinois. Thank you to Palatine High School and all of those who participated in Distance Night for their support! Watch video of event.