Uncategorized Stories

Limestone Community High School Competes in Special Olympics North America & PlayVS Unified eSports Finals


Players are joined by competition, friendship, and comradery today at 6:00 PM CT. A Unified team from Limestone Community High School (LCHS) is competing today in the Special Olympics North America Unified eSports League Finals. Participants will be playing Rocket League, a vehicular soccer game that allows pairs of two to team up. 

With the mission of Unified Sports – promoting social inclusion through sport – Special Olympics North America and PlayVS teamed up to enter the virtual world of interscholastic eSports.

During this inaugural season, 147 students with and without intellectual disabilities on 49 Unified teams representing 26 high schools from nine state Special Olympics programs came together to find connection through eSports. These states included Arizona, California, Connecticut, Colorado, Illinois, and Indiana, New York, Texas, and Virginia. 

From Limestone Community High School in Bartonville, Illinois, Reese Smith, Mikey McCarthy, and Aidan Ward make up the team competing in the finals today. 

The LCHS roster also includes Ryan Lappie, Connor Chambers, Caspin Adams, and Jett Callear, coached by LCHS technical director Jonathan Fredrick. LCHS has embraced this new program as a means to bring students together, including many who have never played before.

“Our players have seen the benefit an outlet like eSports can provide. From grade improvement to social growth, the LCHS team has welcomed eSports with open arms,” says Frederick.

Throughout the season, LCHS has rostered two teams comprised of four Special Olympics Illinois athletes and two Unified Partners. 

“We’re thrilled to be competing in the finals today! The team has come so far, and we’re so excited to continue,” Fredrick added.

It is safe to say eSports is a program that inspires by a principle of inclusion and acceptance for all.

Good luck to all athletes competing today! Interested in viewing the tournament? Tune in today at twitch.tv/specialolympicsillinois.

UCS eSports Internship


Position Title: Intern, Unified Champion Schools, esports & gaming

Location: Lombard or Normal, Illinois (Partially Virtual)

Department: Program Services – Unified Champion Schools

Reports to: Jennifer Kelso, Unified Champion Schools / Mac Dougan, Digital Engagement

Hours: Approximately 20 hours per week (some flexibility possible)

Date Range: Approximately May 1 – August 31 (Depending on candidate school schedule)

Position Summary: This position will support the development of esports and gaming with a focus on school environments that combine students with and without intellectual disabilities (Unified). This role will primarily support Special Olympics staff and school staff with project management, implementation, and evaluation in addition to esport event management opportunities.

Primary Responsibilities:

  • Work with Special Olympics staff and partner organizations to refine esports plans and implementation processes
  • Lead regular input and collaboration calls with various stakeholders
  • Develop surveys to be used for evaluating the esports & gaming programs
  • Compile and present written reports that articulate the results of the test programs
  • Assist with identifying potential partner organizations and resources to support implementation
  • Develop and present trainings on esports for Special Olympics staff and stakeholders
  • Create, Implement, Monitor and Evaluate esports competitions and events
  • Provide recommendations for accessibility and future Unified esports implementation
  • Other duties as assigned


  • Create toolkit of materials for implementation of Unified esports including such things as: getting started checklists, tip sheets, accessibility strategies, fitness/wellness integration, code of conduct, sample budgets
  • Webinar or online training introducing esports to Special Olympics staff, youth leaders and educators
  • Recruitment and Outreach Plan to help grow participation in esports.
  • Tracking project expenses & identifying best practices for Unified esports budgeting to inform esports guidance

Required Qualifications:

  • High school graduate
  • Comfortable with leading Zoom calls and meetings
  • Proven computer skills, specifically: Email, Microsoft Word & Excel
  • Excellent verbal communication, accountability and organizational skills
  • Professional Email communication & ability to respond to all emails within 24 hours (during the business week)
  • Self-reliant and ability to work independently

Desired Qualifications:

  • Experience with Special Olympics
  • Passion for esports/gaming
  • Experience in coordinating esports events or interest in esports careers
  • Knowledge of Social Media and it use to advance organizational goals.

How to Apply:

If you are interested in applying for this internship position, please click the button below and fill out the application!

Apply Today!

UCS Coaster Challenge Internship


Position Title: Intern, Coaster Challenge

Location: Lombard or Normal, Illinois (Partially Virtual)

Department: Program Services – Unified Champion Schools

Reports to: Jennifer Kelso / Jillian Hosteny , Unified Champion Schools

Hours: Approximately 20 hours per week (some flexibility possible)

Date Range: Approximately May 1 – September (Depending on candidate school schedule)

Position Summary: The internship will support the Youth Initiatives and Six Flags Great America staff on all aspects relating to the Coaster Challenge, a signature Special Olympics Illinois fundraiser. Intern must also be available and present for the Coaster Challenge in September 2021

Position Responsibilities:

  • Promotional Events:
    • Assist in development of promotional schedule with Six Flags Great America.
    • Ability to interact with event attendees, visitors, corporate staff, etc.
    • Must be comfortable handling sales function at promotional events
    • Establish communication with event volunteers if needed
    • Prepare and send acknowledgements to volunteers and event staff
  • Financial Protocols:
    • Deposit funds as directed and transmit reports to finance department in the Normal office
    • Maintain accurate financial records in both paper and electronic formats
    • Track all personal expenses and receipts and submit expense report every other week
  • Other Duties:
    • Data entry, mailings, social media updates, and regular promotions
    • Support Youth Initiatives and Six Flags Great America staff on an as-needed basis in other responsibilities as assigned

Core Competencies

  • Strong multi-tasking and time management skills , detail oriented
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills
  • Must be comfortable handling sales function at promotional events
  • Outgoing personality, interact effectively with staff, volunteers, event attendees
  • Experience in Microsoft Office – Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook


  • Must have your own car and possess a valid driver’s license and good driving record; There may be use of company car/van at times
  • Must be able to lift 40 lbs comfortably
  • Must be available some nights, weekends and for overtime if necessary

How to Apply:

If you are interested in applying for this internship position, please click the button below and fill out the application!

Apply Today!

Special Olympics Illinois Athlete Loses 40 Pounds During COVID


The term “Covid 10” has been on the lips of those who indulged during the pandemic.  The extra french fries or ice cream has provided comfort for some, but that’s not the case for one outstanding athlete named Joel Hensleigh. Like most Special Olympics Illinois athletes, Joel finds joy – win or lose – on the field of play, but recently found comfort and joy in losing more than usual. Joel has lost ALOT. He lost forty pounds, and is enjoying the benefits of his new healthy self every day.

When asked how he did it, Joel’s first response was “eat less sugar and no more junk food.” Along with better eating, the activity that he seems to enjoy the most, though, with physical, mental, and emotional health benefits, is going outside.

Joel admitted that his walks, in the past, may end at a fast food restaurant. Now, however, he walks often in the country near his parent’s home. “No Taco Bell to walk to.  No McDonalds nearby” says Joel’s mom Debbie. Instead, Joel found a love for vegetables and he and his dad, David, have creative and delicious ways to cook and enjoy them.

“We make pizza,” says Joel “and we use spinach, kale, mushrooms, zucchini, turkey pepperoni, onions, bell peppers, and a little bit of cheese.” Joel called another favorite “Mexican salad with a kick and a crunch” and said it contains “lots of greens, turkey meat with spices, and tortilla chips.” Fish or shrimp tacos also top the list.

Joel enjoys his new healthy self, and noted that he “feels 25 years younger.” He also said that his knees feel much better, which is a big plus when bowling. When competition returns, Joel will be in the bowling alley where he enjoys competing with both his Special Olympics Illinois league and another local league.  

Joel became a Special Olympics Illinois athlete when he was seven years old and, along with bowling, has competed in volleyball, softball, powerlifting, track, and now golf.  When asked about his favorite sport, though, he answered,  “Basketball is my life!” He is working on perfecting his jump shot.

Along with physical benefits that accompany living healthier, Joel is now registered as a Special Olympics Illinois Health Messenger. This will allow him to help others become motivated to change their lifestyle, too, and enjoy better health.  It is no doubt he will excel in this new role.

Heartwarming stories like Joel’s provoke a certain desire to shout “woohoo!”  It was that same sense that captured hearts at the United Center several years ago when Joel played during halftime at a Chicago Bulls game. “The Bulls weren’t doing well that night” recalled Joel’s mom, Debbie, “but when Joel’s team was playing, the crowd cheered the loudest.”

Joel Hensleigh is an inspiration. He will humbly continue to clean at the YMCA and help others. He will continue to be a great son, brother, and friend to so many. He will continue to exercise and eat well, now knowing the benefits.  The fullest benefits, however, are those that Joel may never see. Those will come through those he inspires from afar. Whether in the stands, in the store, or passing him on a walk, Joel has a contagious spirit. If you are fortunate enough to catch it, you too will be compelled to shout, “woohoooooooo!”

Joel’s inventions (with a little help from his dad)

Veggie Pizza: Use a thin, whole wheat pizza skin (from Schnucks). Spread a thin layer of pizza sauce on it (Joel likes Aldi’s tomato pesto). Joel likes to cook ground turkey with mushrooms, onions, bell pepper, garlic, oregano, and cumin and a small can of spicy tomatoes. Cook that down to make it less juicy. Add the turkey mixture on the pizza skin along with black olives and cherry tomatoes, cut in half. Then, pile on torn up kale or spinach (a lot). Sprinkle with some (not a ton) of grated cheese and bake for 10-15 minutes until cheese is melted and veggies are tender.

Mexican Salad with a Kick and a Crunch: Start with a big bowl of torn up greens (spinach, mixed greens, kale, etc). Halve about 15 little tomatoes, chop half a bell pepper, add about 1/4 cup of humus, a few dashes of hot sauce, some salsa, a squirt of either lite Ranch dressing or olive oil, a little bit of shredded cheese, and about 10-15 blue corn chips, crunched up in your hands. Stir all together and enjoy!

While Special Olympics Illinois has adapted organizing sporting events based on CDC and Illinois Department of Public Health guidelines, as an organization, they are working harder than ever to provide their athletes the means to stay fit and active. They invite you to support their athletes by visiting www.soill.org today and learn more about funding these vital activities.

Special Olympics Illinois is the only entity in Illinois accredited by Special Olympics, Inc. and authorized by license to use the Special Olympics™ trademark and logo.

Chicago Baseball Bash in Mesa, AZ


Experience a Chicago-style party after a Cubs Spring Training Game! The event is a traditional Chi-Town party filled with your favorite celebrities entertaining the crowd!

What a great way to enhance your spring training trip, by going to Chicago Baseball Bash for Special Olympics on March 20, 2021, from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at The Sheraton in Wrigleyville West, Mesa, Arizona. This event is hosted by George Wendt of Cheers and other sports celebrities. All proceeds benefit the athletes of Special Olympics Illinois.

Chicago Baseball Bash tickets are $40 per person and include entertainment, a Chicago-themed buffet, and open bar of beer, wine and soda.

Appropriately, this event will be held in Mesa, the first-ever Autism Certified City in the U.S. designated by the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES), the result of nearly a year-long quest to tailor travel experiences for individuals with autism and their families.

In total, almost 100 businesses and organizations in Mesa and the surrounding area completed autism certification training, and are now each deemed a Certified Autism Center by IBCCES. The effort was immediately embraced by other city factions including the Mesa Chamber of Commerce and numerous nonprofit organizations. More than 500 Mesa Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities employees and 1,200 plus Mesa Police Department public safety and law enforcement officers are fully committed to autism certification training. To date, nearly 4,000 community members have completed or committed to the autism certification.

For more information, or to purchase tickets, please visit Chicago Baseball Bash.