Sponsor Stories Stories

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois Among Sponsors of Inspire Greatness Gala


6th Annual Gala on Oct. 26 to Benefit Athletes Across the State

CHICAGO, Ill. – Even with all the recent attention focused around the roll-out of the Affordable Care Act, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois (BCBSIL) remains committed to supporting the health and welfare of Special Olympics Illinois athletes by sponsoring the organization’s Inspire Greatness Gala on Saturday, Oct. 26.

BCBSI_CMYK_CenterBlue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois President Karen Atwood joins as Chair of the 6th annual Gala at the Four Seasons Hotel in Chicago. The healthcare organization is the Gold Medal Sponsor of the Gala.

In her role at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, Atwood oversees all of its sales and marketing activities; its extensive health, wellness and medical management programs; its health care provider networks and relationships; and its government, public and community relations activities across Illinois. She will lead attendees in paying tribute to the Special Olympics movement and those who inspire us most of all – the athletes.

“When I think about Special Olympics, I think of unbounded joy and celebration,” said Atwood. “You see the joy in the faces of all the athletes, their families and friends. And Special Olympics celebrates the differences of these individuals and it says that no matter what your disabilities may be, you can accomplish great things. It really breaks down the barriers of prejudice. At Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, we focus our resources on improving health and wellness and diversity and inclusion. Those things together are the epitome of what Special Olympics is all about.”

“Special Olympics Illinois could not transform the lives of nearly 21,300 athletes in Illinois were it not for the support of organizations like Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois,” said Special Olympics Illinois President & CEO Dave Breen. “Karen Atwood’s dedication to sharing the story of our athletes is invaluable to us.”

Karen Atwood

Karen Atwood

“When I think about the children and the adults who are participating in Special Olympics, I think what a wonderful opportunity to really transform their lives,” Atwood said. “It really gives them the courage to live on their own, to apply for a new job, to meet and interact and make new friends where they may have been afraid to do that before. It really is about transforming lives.”

As in previous years, the event is expected to draw scores of Chicago dignitaries and notables, such as father and son basketball legends Doug and Chris Collins and Chicago Alderman Ed Burke, as well as athletes and their families. CBS2 Chicago anchor Rob Johnson is the master of ceremonies. The City Lights Orchestra will perform and we will again have a signature live and silent auction with experiential items, packages for the sports enthusiast and wonderful vacations and getaways.

Since its inception, this event has raised over $2.5 million to support the more than 21,300 athletes and nearly 13,000 Young Athletes (ages 2-7) who participate in Special Olympics programs in Illinois.

For more information on the Gala, please visit www.inspiregreatnessgala.org. See a complete list of all major sponsors of the Gala.

The Illinois Knights of Columbus, Law Enforcement Torch Run and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois are Official Partners of Special Olympics Illinois.

Special Olympics Illinois is a not-for-profit organization offering year-round training and competition in 19 sports for more than 21,300 athletes with intellectual disabilities and nearly 13,000 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

This year is the 45th anniversary of Special Olympics which began in 1968 with the first Games at Soldier Field in Chicago; 1,000 athletes from the U.S. and Canada competed in athletics and aquatics.  Today, there are more than 4.2 million Special Olympics athletes in 170 countries.



Barbara DiGuido, Special Olympics Illinois, 630-942-5621

Durham School Services Top Fundraising Team at Ducky Derby


Durham School Services, a leader in student transportation, took honors as the top fundraising team at the Windy City Rubber Ducky Derby, Aug, 8, on the Chicago River. Durham’s team of 10, which included members of the corporate office, field managers, drivers and family members, raised $14,099 in duck adoption sales and sponsorship for Special Olympics Illinois.

More than 50,000 rubber duckies raced down the Chicago River hoping to be picked the winner. These duck adoptions raised more than $300,000 to benefit Special Olympics Illinois. This was the seventh year Durham has participated in the Windy City Rubber Ducky Derby.

2013-07-25 11.39.48This year, Durham School Services corporate office in Warrenville took on the Derby as a team. The company had monthly team building meetings that included Global Messenger speeches by athletes Molly Sosnowski, Grace Seiboldt and Jose Moreno, Jr. throughout the summer. The efforts culminating at the company “Bags Tournament” where Splash Duck and the 2013 Chevy Malibu prize car, donated by the Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana Chevy Dealers, made an appearance.

Durham School Services began transporting special needs students in 1917, and their commitment to the safety and well-being of children extends beyond the school bus ride and into each and every community they serve. Durham School Services has partnered with Special Olympics for the past 15 years, supporting local events across the country because they truly believe in the Special Olympics mission. Serving the communities in which they operate is a primary value at Durham School Services.

Durham’s participation in the Windy City Rubber Ducky Derby was organized by Kimberly Isley-Pesto, Lead Corporate Training Specialist of Durham School Services Warrenville location. “It’s a special feeling to know we’re playing a role in transforming lives across the state,” Isley-Pesto said. “Special Olympics Illinois is a wonderful organization to partner with. This year’s fundraising efforts were amazing! We had a creative and fun team who worked hard and we are grateful for the opportunity to participate and make a difference.”

“The enthusiasm and loyal support of the team at Durham School Services has been very gratifying for the Special Olympics staff, athletes and volunteers,” said Dave Breen, President and CEO of Special Olympics Illinois. “They not only sponsor and raise funds to support our program, but create a fun festive atmosphere throughout their organization which rallies around our athletes.”

Durham School Services is a year-round partner providing donated bus services for various events and competitions, along with sponsorship and fundraising teams for the Plane Pull and the Polar Plunge, in addition to the Windy City Rubber Ducky Derby.

About Durham School Services

Durham School Services is a leading provider of student transportation consistently recognized for its outstanding safety record. Durham partners with school districts in 30 states and operates a fleet of nearly 13,000 buses. Our success rests with our dedicated employees who live our mission: “Getting kids to school safe, on time, and ready to learn.” For more information, visit Durham’s website.