Uncategorized Stories

Preston’s Birthday Party


 

By: Megan J.M. Clodi

“Are you going to throw me a party?” is the exact question asked several times a week by Mt. Vernon Township High School (MVTHS) student-athlete, Preston Reich. He would ask his teacher this question to make sure she didn’t forget he was getting ready to embark on a new chapter of his life.

Preston has always attended MVTHS and participated in Special Olympics bowling, athletics (track and field), Unified Bass Fishing, and after doing basketball skills for a number of years, he played on the basketball team. When Preston completed his fourth year of high school, he shifted to another program provided by MVTHS called Readying Adults to Maximize Success, or the R.A.M.S. Program. It is designed to teach students how to live independently with a strong focus on vocational skills. While he has been part of the program, Preston has honed his vocational skills while working at locations on and off campus. Mrs. LeeAnn Schuette was his teacher and developed relationships with several local businesses for Preston and his classmates to generalize their skills into community settings. The DoubleTree by Hilton, Mt. Vernon Dream Homes, and others are some locations where Preston has worked on fine-tuning his skills. While giving a speech to the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce Executive Board about the R.A.M.S. Program, Preston revealed that his favorite part of working at the DoubleTree by Hilton was seeing General Manager, Mike Carbonaro every day … Mr. Carbonaro was in the audience for that speech!

This school year was bittersweet for Preston. This was his last year to attend MVTHS and his last year in the R.A.M.S. Program because he was turning 22 years old. When students receiving transitional programming turn 22 years old, they “age out” or exit the program. This can be daunting for some students or some families. Preston was ready! He works several days each week at Kingdom Seed Ministries, which is a non-profit organization that sells lunches three days a week to raise money for their various community ministries. All through the year, Preston knew what was coming around the corner in April 2020. He knew his time at MVTHS was coming to an end. Truthfully, he was the ONLY student at MVTHS who knew he would not be entering the hallowed halls for the rest of the school year. The abrupt end of in-person learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic took everyone by surprise. The one aspect that Preston was not prepared for was how his 22nd birthday party would be impacted. Would he still have a party?

When students exit the R.A.M.S. Program midyear due to aging out, Mrs. Schuette really pulls out all the stops to make the exiting student feel how special they are and know how much they will be missed.  A HUGE 22nd birthday bash is held in the student’s honor. Preston participated in his classmate party last year. It was something he was looking forward to this entire year. March saw an Executive Order from Illinois Governor JB Pritzker for all Illinois residents to stay at home for at least 30 days. This meant Preston’s party, to be held on his birthday, April 17, could not be held, at least in the way it was originally intended.

Thankfully, Preston’s teacher is awfully incredible! She would never let a pandemic get in the way of Preston’s highly anticipated party. She just had to make sure he knew that Ram Nation would always love Preston and that he would always be part of the Ram Family!  Mrs. Schuette began contacting Preston’s family, teachers, staff members, and the whole community about Preston’s upcoming birthday and the brand-new plan to throw him a 22nd birthday PARADE! At 12:30 pm on Friday, April 17, about 50 vehicles met in a nearby vacant parking lot and at 12:45 pm police sirens were sounded as the vehicles formed a line and began driving toward Preston’s home. This timing was important because it was the time of day Preston was born 22 years before. Living a few blocks from a major road, Preston thought the sirens were for a funeral procession. As the siren sound became louder and louder, he and his family exited their home and were greeted with a long procession of cars, decorated with streamers and balloons, honking while passengers were cheering and holding signs, and many carefully dropped gifts and cards for Preston.

Speaking of cards, Preston received so many cards in the days surrounding his birthday!  He hardly ever receives mail, let alone so many cards! He even received a card from the state of Florida with Disney stickers. One letter came from Jackson Creel, a senior at MVTHS, who happens to share a birthday with Preston. He wrote that “all the cool people are born on April 17.” Jackson went on to write how much he missed seeing Preston in the hallways at school and telling him hello. Although they have never had classes together or hung out together after school, Jackson knows that birthdays are special, especially “their” birthday. Preston hung that special letter on his bedroom mirror. Guess who was hanging out the window of his mom’s SUV during Preston’s birthday parade … that’s right, Jackson!

Preston and his family were amazed at how the school and community showered him with love and birthday wishes.  He recorded a thank you video that his mom posted on Facebook. Preston may not have received a celebration like he was expecting, but Preston’s parade was the perfect party proxy!


Northwestern University to Lend Support for Upcoming SUPER Plunge


 

After the gold medals have been won and the teams leave Chestnut Mountain, Special Olympics Illinois sets forth on a new challenge – one that dares you to be bold and get cold for athletes across the state. It’s the annual Illinois Law Enforcement Torch Run Polar Plunge!

Last year, nearly 7,000 warm-hearted individuals raised $2,000,000 from February to March. In 2020, those brave enough will have the opportunity to take the frigid leap at 25 different locations throughout Illinois – beginning in Peoria on February 15.

Special Olympics Illinois relies on dedicated LETR members in Illinois for these events—members like Detective Robbi Peterson.

Peterson started attending Law Enforcement Torch Run events in 2008 before eventually becoming the West Chicago Police Department’s LETR liaison. Finding inspiration at the LETR Kick-Off in early 2009, he and his daughter Taylor began taking the Polar Plunge.

“We raised a little over $600 between the two of us,” Peterson explained. “Each year we tried to top the previous and eventually her younger siblings, Isabella and Jayden, joined us.  I also pressured a few co-workers over the years and our group continued to grow.”

After Peterson attended his first International LETR conference in Nashville, he felt further motivated to support Special Olympics.

“The message I received was, ‘What can I do to make it bigger and better?’” 

Peterson’s answer? The SUPER Plunge.

He will be starting his third SUPER Plunge on February 21. The league of nearly 60 SUPER Plungers will jump into Lake Michigan once an hour for 24 hours.

Over the past three years Peterson has joined the SUPER Plunge Committee and aids the group in finding ways to make the event bigger, better, and most importantly more fun for those participating. This year, he had the idea to give thanks and recognize Northwestern University – who unofficially host the event on their campus lakefront.

“I recall last year standing outside getting ready to take a plunge at 9 p.m. and looked up toward the lit up fieldhouse and the entire women’s field hockey team was standing near the window watching us and cheering us on,” Peterson recalls.

“That was pretty cool.” 

Through social media, Haley Zimmerman (the Athletic Trainer for the Northwestern Women’s Volleyball team and friend of Peterson) caught wind of the SUPER Plunge and came to see for herself what it was all about.

“After a few weeks I was already starting to think about next year’s SUPER Plunge. I reached out to Haley and asked about reception I might receive from staff or athletes if we looked at doing an hour where we honored Northwestern.”

A few weeks post-2019 SUPER Plunge, Peterson’s wheels were turning and with Zimmerman’s help the pair secured support from the athletic department. This year, the Women’s Assistant Volleyball Coach, Kevin Moore has agreed to jump with the SUPER Plungers during an early-evening hour of the event, and the volleyball team will come out to support him.

As part of this “Northwestern Hour” additional student athletes, staff and Willie the Wildcat will be on-site to pump up the SUPER Plunge and lend their encouragement to this outstanding group. Special Olympics Illinois athletes from Evanston Special Recreation will join in the fun, too.

When asked why he finds Special Olympics Illinois so important, Peterson laughs because he thinks it should be so obvious.

“To see these athletes grow in confidence and skill, year after year, due to the opportunities provided to them through Special Olympics Illinois is so rewarding.”  

He continues, “Knowing that the little piece we do for them can have life-changing effects is one of the most satisfying things a person can be a part of.”

Each SUPER Plunger is asked to raise a minimum of $2,500 to participate in this extreme event. Registration is now open for all Plunges statewide. For those interested in signing up or making a donation, please visit www.plungeillinois.com or by contact Jim Fitzpatrick via jfitzpatrick@soill.org.

“My involvement with Special Olympics Illinois thru the LETR is something I take great pride in,” says Peterson.

“I can’t think of any reason why Special Olympics Illinois isn’t important.”


Director – Salesforce Administrator


 

The Director – Salesforce Administrator will lead the ongoing development of our salesforce.org
deployment. The successful candidate will have a record of success in improving processes and
adoption using the Salesforce platform. The administrator will work closely with functional
leaders, organizational units, and subject matter experts to identify develop and deploy new
business processes including: Fundraising, Marketing, Outreach and our core program business
processes. This role is part technical project manager, part administrator and part Salesforce
analyst. The Director – Salesforce Administrator will be responsible for the executing on the
day-to-day configuration, support, maintenance and improvement of Special Olympics Illinois’s CRM
platform.

Director Core Roles:
● Scope of Responsibility: Fully competent professional in particular field of specialization (5
– 8 years); Bachelor’s degree is required. Team Member possesses and applies a broad knowledge of
principles, practices and procedures of particular field of specialization to the completion of
difficult assignments. This category includes experts in a particular field who deliver a job that
is key to the organization. Team Members in these positions would typically contribute through
their people leadership and have full responsibility over all elements of a subgroup, function or
project within a department of the organization. They have appreciable latitude for un-reviewed
action or decision. Team Members may act in a liaison capacity with other departments and
organizations and they provide management oversight that is critical to the organization’s ability
to function.
● Conduct: Director-level Team Members must demonstrate the mission, vision and values of
Special Olympics Illinois through consistent adherence to Special Olympics Illinois’ Values &
Behaviors; by exercising a high level of cooperative, friendly and effective teamwork skills; by
resolving conflict directly, effectively and professionally; and by committing to support and be
helpful to other Team Members and departments within the organization.
● Performance: Satisfactory work performance requires consistently strong work product output,
including the successful execution and completion of all job duties and goals; autonomy, ownership,
competence and excellence of work product; innovation and process improvement; effective resource
management; professional development; and compliance with accepted organizational and legal rules,
regulations and policies.

Primary Duties and Responsibilities:

• Serve as primary system administrator for the Salesforce.org environment with 85+ users
• Handle all basic administrative functions including user account maintenance, reports and
dashboards, workflows and other routine tasks
• Complete regular internal system audits and prepare for upgrades
• Manage Salesforce.org data feeds and other integrations
• Coordinate the evaluation, scope and completion of new development requests.
• Work with team to establish suitable processes to support administrative, development, and
change management activities
• Assist in training of new users, and grow the Salesforce.org skill set across the
organization
• Effectively act as the liaison between our users, vendors and the application development
teams
• Work independently with members of the user community to define and document development
requirements.
• Keeps current with the latest technologies and develop requests for proposals on new
initiatives.
• Develops business case justifications and cost/benefit analyses for new process
implementation.
• Develops and implement all policies and procedures for our Salesforce environment, including
those for architecture, security, standards, and service provision
• Negotiates and administer vendor, outsourcer and consultant contracts and service agreements.
• Establishes and maintain regular written and in-person communications with the organization’s
executives, department heads and end users regarding pertinent Salesforce activities and usage.
• Diagnoses and resolves technical problems, prevents problem escalation and provides solution
tracking
• Ability to critically evaluate information gathered from multiple sources, reconcile
conflicts, decompose high-level information into details, abstract up from low-level information to
a general understanding, and distinguish user requests from the underlying true needs
• Ability to assess the impact of new requirements on Salesforce.org and all upstream and
downstream applications, systems and processes

Preferred Qualifications:

• Minimum two years of experience as a Salesforce.com administrator
• Salesforce.com Admin (ADM201 and ADM211) certified
• Sales Cloud, Service Cloud and Developer certifications preferred
• Proven ability to design and implement new processes and facilitate user adoption.
• Strong understanding of the platform, with the ability to build custom apps and objects,
formula fields, workflows, custom views, and other content of intermediate complexity
• Strong understanding of Salesforce.com best practices and functionality
• Strong data management abilities
• A documented history of successfully driving projects to completion
• A demonstrated ability to understand and articulate complex requirements
• Experience with nonprofit processes preferred
• Previous experience working in a SCRUM or agile environment preferred
• Comprehensive understanding of network architecture and client/server technology
• Ability to work effectively in areas of ambiguity and capable of creating solutions to complex
problems.
• Excellent communication skills.


Work Schedule:
● Based out of Headquarters Office in Normal, IL/Remote
● Reports to Senior Director – Technology
● Monday through Friday with evenings and weekends as position demands
● Schedule includes occasional travel to Field offices and other venues

Please send resume to euphoff@soill.org


Manager – Administrative Services


 

POSITION ANNOUNCEMENT

TITLE: Manager – Administrative Services

Position Overview:

The Manager – Administrative Services is primarily responsible for providing support to the
Director –Athlete and Family Initiatives, Central and Southern Region staff and State Championship
and Unified Champion Schools staff to help ensure that the proper procedures are in place to
assist Special Olympics Illinois in achieving the Big Three Key Objectives.

Primary Responsibilities

● Actively works with Directors to achieve strategic goals to ensure progress toward the Big
Three Key Objectives and to protect the financial integrity of the organization

● Assists with driving program initiatives such as Unified Champion Schools, Families, Athlete
Leadership, Young Athletes and Healthy Athletes.

● General support, including but not limited to: producing reports, grant tracking, updating
organizational policy and procedures, processing data entry requirements, Athlete Leader and Family
leadership trainings, updating social media, creating flyers, maintaining data base, website
postings and other duties as assigned.

● Assists in managing volunteers as well as part-time and/or temporary employees as needed.

● Supports State-level events through pre-event preparation, correspondence with families,
event planning and post event follow up including data collection and credential order fulfillment.

● May assist with day of duties at events, providing general event support as needed at State
tournament and athlete leader/family leader workshops

● Manages logistics such as food/beverage, audio-visual and invitations/collateral for
trainings and meetings.

● Promote events and relevant news and information on Families and Athlete Leadership Facebook
pages and newsletters

 

Qualifications/Skills and Knowledge Requirements:

● Bachelor’s degree strongly recommended

● Excellent, adaptive computer skills including proficiency with Microsoft Office products

● Ability to work independently without close oversight, but also a team player who productively
engages with others at varying levels of seniority within and outside Special Olympics Illinois

● High energy and passion for Special Olympics mission

● Meets all team deadlines and responsibilities, listens to others and values opinions, helps
team to meet goals, welcomes newcomers and promotes a team atmosphere

● Strong organizational and time management skills with exceptional attention to detail

● Customer focus

● Excellent communication skills, both written and oral as well as receptive (listening)
Essential Functions:

● Monday through Friday with frequent evenings and weekends as position demands

● Independent in-state travel required, including some overnight and weekend travel as an
essential function of position

● Physical mobility required: must be able to climb stairs, assist in set-up and breakdown at
events, stand or sit for long periods of time, and load and unload vehicles

● Medium work required, which involves lifting no more than 50 pounds at a time with frequent
lifting or carrying of objects weighing up to 25 pounds; includes sedentary and light work

● Close visual acuity required to perform activities such as: preparing and analyzing data and
figures; transcribing; viewing a computer terminal; extensive reading; visual inspection involving
small defects, small parts, and/or operation of machines; operating motor vehicles

● First Aid/CPR Training and Certification required; must be able and willing to effectively
administer First Aid/CPR on-site during events

● Valid driver’s license and proof of insurance required

● Based out of Normal office located at 605 East Willow Street, Normal, IL

● To apply, please send resume, cover letter and 3 references to Karen Milligan at
kmilligan@soill.org


Manager – Development Region G


 

POSITION ANNOUNCEMENT

TITLE: Manager – Development Region G

Position Overview:

The Manager – Region is primarily responsible for providing support to the Region staff to help
ensure that the Region has the proper procedures in place to assist Special Olympics Illinois in
achieving the Big Three Key Objectives. This manager position will have a development focus.

 

Primary Responsibilities

● Actively work with the Region Director to achieve Region-Specific, strategic goals to ensure
progress toward the Big Three Key Objectives and to protect the financial integrity of the
organization

● Manages all fundraising and resource development efforts in the Region, including but not
limited to sponsorships, special events and fundraisers, in-kind resource development, state-level
event and campaign support

● Actively work with Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) Team to support local LETR events and
fundraising efforts; serves as a local contact for LETR legs in Region

● Collaborate with community partners to create third party fundraisers and special athlete
opportunities

● Focus on continued growth capitalizing on using knowledge of technology and social media to
identify and employ new avenues to market the organization and its offering

● Recruit and manage volunteers and committee members, as well as part-time, full-time and/or
temporary employees as needed

● Provide support in case of staffing vacancies in assigned Region

 

Qualifications/Skills and Knowledge Requirements:

● Bachelor’s degree strongly recommended

● Excellent, adaptive computer skills including proficiency with Microsoft Office products

● Ability to work independently without close oversight, but also a team player who productively
engages with others at varying levels of seniority within and outside Special Olympics Illinois

● High energy and passion for Special Olympics mission

● Meets all team deadlines and responsibilities, listens to others and values opinions, helps
team to meet goals, welcomes newcomers and promotes a team atmosphere

● Strong organizational and time management skills with exceptional attention to detail

● Customer focus

● Excellent communication skills, both written and oral as well as receptive (listening)

Essential Functions:

● Monday through Friday with frequent evenings and weekends as position demands

● Independent in-state travel required, including some overnight and weekend travel as an
essential function of position

● Physical mobility required: must be able to climb stairs, assist in set-up and breakdown at
events, stand or sit for long periods of time, and load and unload vehicles

● Medium work required, which involves lifting no more than 50 pounds at a time with frequent
lifting or carrying of objects weighing up to 25 pounds; includes sedentary and light work

● Close visual acuity required to perform activities such as: preparing and analyzing data and
figures; transcribing; viewing a computer terminal; extensive reading; visual inspection involving
small defects, small parts, and/or operation of machines; operating motor vehicles

● First Aid/CPR Training and Certification required; must be able and willing to effectively
administer First Aid/CPR on-site during events

● Valid driver’s license and proof of insurance required

● Based out of State Headquarters Office (605 E Willow St. Normal IL)

● To apply for this position, please send resume and cover letter to Bailey Brenner at
bbrenner@soill.org