Sponsor Stories Stories

Ducks on the Mag Mile


25 giant painted ducks will take to downtown Chicago this Summer.

Breakfast of Executive Champions 


I’ll have scrambled eggs with a side of inspiration please!

On October 9th, two hundred-fifty members of the business community started their day at The Dalcy in Chicago’s Fulton Market District, ready to learn more about the programs and athletes at Special Olympics Illinois.  Some guests were old friends and supporters, but the majority of the audience had never been formally introduced to our organization.

SOILL Board Chair, Karen Atwood, opened the program with a message of strength and confidence.  She explained to the audience, the power of our 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and other certifications, and that an astounding 81% of our revenue is directed for program use.  She also shared personal stories of athletes and families who motivate her to devote her energy and skill to SOILL.

President and CEO, Dave Breen, took the podium next, describing how and why he became involved in Special Olympics Illinois three decades ago, and enumerating our full range of programs.  Most guests were already familiar with the sports programs that have been our core since 1968, but many were surprised and delighted to hear about our Health, Leadership and Inclusion programs.  In many cases, these disciplines have a direct relationship to what companies strive to achieve every day: teamwork, determination, health & wellness, personal development, and diversity & inclusion.    Then Dave introduced Garrett Anderson.

From the first boom of his voice, to his final word, Garrett impressed the audience with his message of empowerment, and what it means to be a champion.  He talked about setting aside the kind of pessimism our athletes face every day in being told what they can and can’t do.  Instead he suggested setting goals, working with a plan, learning from failure, and winning with grace. Every person in attendance could relate to Garret’s message of perseverance.

Then Dave Breen returned to the stage to introduce Mike Greenberg and Don Shannon of Interior Investments, a company who has quietly raised over half a million dollars through their unique signature event to benefit SOILL, (a chair hockey tournament).  Interior Investments was awarded the very first “Executive Champion” award not just for their fundraising efforts, but also for partnering with SOILL on many other projects.  The owners described the history of their event, and how profoundly Special Olympics Illinois has impacted the culture of their organization. After thanking their employees, many of whom were in the audience, for their dedication to supporting the athletes of Special Olympics Illinois, they challenged the audience members to do the same.

Then it was time to get back to the office, informed and inspired, but before leaving, guests provided feedback.  Many made donations, while others offered help in the way of in-kind support and volunteerism, but all were positive and affirming.  Thank you to the business community for sharing a meal with us, and becoming members of the extended Special Olympics Illinois family.  You are all Champions!

Change For Champions-Meet Eve Erita


On June 28, Jewel-Osco employee and Special Olympics Illinois athlete Eve Erita thought she was attending a summer luncheon in the McHenry, Illinois Jewel-Osco break room. However, when she walked in she saw her family, friends, coworkers and even best friend and bocce partner, Gina, all sitting at the tables waiting for her. Eve has been chosen to be the face of Jewel-Osco’s “Change For Champions” at-register campaign for the month of July and everyone was there for the celebration.

Store Director, Dana Smith, gave a heartwarming speech describing how Eve, who has been an employee with Jewel-Osco since 1991, has always been a happy and helpful employee. “Her cheerful outlook, contagious smile, makes it a joy to work with. I know that every day, I come in and I’m working up front, she does miss me, she always says hello friend!”

Eve has competed in Special Olympics for over 2 decades, competing in multiple sports including basketball and bowling. She is a people person and a great team player.

“Every day she works, she comes in with a smile and a very contagious laugh,” says coworker Samantha Green.

“Her cheerful disposition and positive attitude make every day in our store a lot brighter and she is a joy to work with.”

Eve is famous for her hand-made greeting cards and her ability to remember friends and customers on their birthdays and holidays. Now it’s Eve’s turn to be celebrated – she will be featured in all of Change for Champions collateral all July long.

This promotion runs July 1-31 at 188 Jewel-Osco locations throughout Illinois, where customers will be encouraged to make a $1, $3, or $5 donation during checkout.

Congratulations Eve!

Hiram Brownell Visited 107 Casey’s General Stores to Spread the Special Olympics Mission


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Hiram Brownell visited 107 Casey’s General Stores in the last year.  How many people can say that? After you meet the friendly, long-time Special Olympics Illinois staff and historian, you will understand.

Brownell has been involved with Special Olympics for over 50 years. His rich connection to the organization will always stay close to him.

Earlier this month, Casey’s General Store and Coca Cola teamed up for their annual campaign to benefit Special Olympics running all June long. In June 2018, this campaign sparked an idea for Brownell.

“It started with wanting to spread the word about Special Olympics Illinois, then it turned into a must-stop location on any road trip,” said Brownell.  Hiram traveled from location to location in the 50th Anniversary traveling exhibit, which serves as a moving tribute to the history of Special Olympics.

Beginning in June 2018 and ending a year later in June of 2019, Hiram Brownell visited 107 Casey’s General Stores.

From western Illinois to Indiana, Brownell made it a point to stop into every Casey’s possible. He would introduce himself to the managers, often take a group photo, and thank them for their ongoing support of the Special Olympics mission.

At each location visited he left a Special Olympics 50th Anniversary commemorative pin for each and every employee.

Brownell was not only amazed by the number of Casey’s in Illinois, but the overwhelming support from such a large company.

By traveling across state lines to visit Casey’s General Stores, Hiram Brownell met many Special Olympics supporters, volunteers, families, and friends. Each location Brownell stopped at was left with a little bit of Special Olympics history and legacy to pass along.

Meet Ben Simpson


Ben Simpson has been competing in Special Olympics Illinois for 25 years and is an active participant in basketball, equestrian, golf, snowshoeing, swimming, and his personal favorite, powerlifting!  He is a familiar face at many State Championship events as a competitor, but will also be adding the title of assistant coach to his resume, serving in that role during this year’s Summer Games.

While certainly impressive, Ben’s success is hardly limited to just the field of play.  In addition to his remarkable collection of medals, he is an energetic advocate for Special Olympics programs as an Athlete Leader, and was also recently elected to serve on the Special Olympics Illinois Board of Directors!  Ben takes great pride in sharing his experience and vision for improving the Special Olympics experience for everyone involved.  As part of his term with the Board of Directors, Ben’s voice will be instrumental in shaping a new strategic plan for the organization. 

The variety of experiences Ben has enjoyed through Special Olympics have positively influenced his life.  He credits his involvement in the program in helping him build confidence, become stronger, healthier, more outgoing, as well as being more patient.  These traits have carried over into his work life and helped him become a trusted and respected team member at his place of employment – Casey’s!  A member of Casey’s team for the past six years, Ben is very proud of his work and has made many good friends during his tenure.  He received his foodservice certificate last year and is always excited to assist with the food when he gets a chance.  Perhaps it’s the powerlifter in him, but it seems to be a great match!

A personal highlight Ben wanted to share was reciting the Special Olympics Athlete Oath at the 2017 Special Olympics Illinois Summer Games, helping to declare the games open as part of the Opening Ceremony.  These words spoken in front of a packed football stadium serve as an important reminder for us all:  “Let me win.  But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt”.