Posts Tagged “Transforming Lives”

Golf and Ice Cream Bring Athletes and Buddies Together for Day of Fun

by Jamie Scovel.

Everyone has stories to tell. For the past two years, Mike Chmielewski of West Dundee has organized what he calls “the Buddy’s Outing.” Composed of 24 buddies and 24 athletes, the outing is an opportunity for Special Olympics athletes to golf with a buddy and share their stories with them. The outing was at Bartlett Hills Golf Club on May 9 from 1 to 4 p.m. They played nine holes of golf and enjoyed ice cream afterwards.

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From left, Pat Prom, Francisco Vela, Ben Brizzolara and Mike Chmielewski at Buddy’s Outing.

“We have a lot of rules. The rules are: we don’t have any rules,” said Chmielewski. “It’s not about raising the money. It’s not about playing golf. It’s the interaction with the athletes. Most of the buddies really haven’t had the opportunity to interact with people with special needs. I just said “Listen to them, listen to their stories, talk to them. Don’t treat them any differently. They don’t want to be treated any different. You’re their buddy for the couple hours that we play golf.’ ”

In the two years the Buddy’s Outing has occurred, they’ve raised more than $4,000.

“Our goal initially was to help send an athlete, family, coach to the 2014 National Games,” said Chmielewski. He will be donating the money raised to Special Olympics to use as needed.

Chmielewski has his own golf buddy, Ben Brizzolara, who he’s been golfing with for about 10 years. He met Ben when his oldest daughter did community service for her high school, and Special Olympics was the organization she volunteered for at a district volleyball tournament. Afterwards, Chmielewski called Special Olympics and asked if they needed any basketball coaches.

Through the Buddy’s Outing, Chmielewski hopes his friends can have their own story, “their own Ben story.”

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Athletes David Kelly and Dustin Dickens enjoy ice cream.

“We just have fun,” said Chmielewski about his time with Ben. “I think the only reason (Ben’s) my partner all this time is because I’m the only golf partner that after nine holes lets him go to Dairy Queen for ice cream,” he jokingly added.

After the outing, the buddies gave the athletes pins for the 2014 National Games.

“We’re not doing it for the recognition. It’s more about having fun with the athletes. It’s a lot of fun. I hope it lasts for 10 more years. It’s something the buddies look forward to. Afterwards, the first question out there is ‘When are we doing this next year?’ ” said Chmielewski.

Chmielewski has volunteered for Special Olympics for more than 10 years as a coach for basketball and softball in addition to golf. He has also participated in the Polar Plunge in Lake Bluff for the last two years.  He has a Plunge partner, Rob Seymour, who does the Plunge with him.

“Somebody called and said, ‘I’ll donate $1,000 to the Polar Plunge, but I get to pick out the bathing suits (you and Rob) wear,’ ” said Chmielewski. “We just have a ball with it. As long as my heart is beating, I’ll be doing it.”

By Cassidy Obis, Communications Intern

High School Basketball Team Receives State Championship Rings

by Jamie Scovel.

When the Homewood-Flossmoor High School Vikings “three-peated” by winning their high school division at the Special Olympics Illinois State Basketball Tournament in March, they secured a spot in the record books at their school.

On May 21, they received another sort of recognition that was also a first for the school district – all 11 members of the Special Olympics team and its three coaches were presented with State Championship rings before the last school board meeting of the year. Seven team volunteers also received pendants.

Homewood-Flossmoor HS ringsEach student was individually called forward by their name and jersey number and presented with their ring. Afterwards, the school board held a reception complete with cupcakes. “The school board was very enthusiastic for our players,” said David Dore, Homewood-Flossmoor Special Education teacher and Special Olympics coach.

The 2013 Vikings team was comprised of Quewone Berry of Homewood; Christopher Brown of Hazel Crest; Thomas Clemon of Glenwood; Jalen Fair of Homewood; Luis Garcia of Homewood; Clarence Hatter of Flossmoor; Michael Jones of Hazel Crest; Ishmael Lewis of Homewood; Joshua Lipsey of Homewood; Terrell Marks of Flossmoor and Jamal Wade of Flossmoor.

“It made me so happy that our Director of Special Education Kathy Dreger decided to do this for us,” said Dore. “This was definitely a special moment for the team.” In previous years, the team was recognized with banners hung in the gym.

“This is a team that hasn’t sought out any publicity for their accomplishments and it only seemed right for them to get the State Championship rings after the three-peat,” said Dore. The team, comprised mainly of the same core players, won gold medals at State Basketball in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Homewood-Flossmoor has only been offering Special Olympics participation for six years, said Dore, who co-founded the program with another teacher. “We are now up to 40 athletes on three basketball teams and two soccer teams.”

By Michele Evans Henson, Director of Communications