50 for 50th Stories



Clif Bar & Company is a proud new supporter of Special Olympics, beginning with its 50th Anniversary event held in Chicago in July 2018. The event brought together 300 athletes from around the world for the first-ever Unified Cup — 16 male and eight female soccer teams comprised of young adults with and without intellectual disabilities. Not separate teams, but inclusive ones. Athletes with disabilities played alongside those without. All bound by their love of sport, playing the world’s most popular sport in front of thousands of spectators and culminating in nationally televised finals matches on ESPN2.

“We believe sports can be a powerful force for social good,” said Thao Pham, Vice President of Community at Clif Bar. “Sports can transform lives — those of the athletes themselves and those of the others they impact. People who are intellectually disabled shouldn’t be excluded from that. We live in a time where fostering inclusivity is more important than ever.”


Healthy Athletes Cooking Demonstration


On July 16th, 2018 Special Olympics Illinois hosted the first-ever Healthy Athletes Cooking Demonstration. Collaborating with Entercom’s Culinary Kitchen, Steak 48 Executive Chef Brian Key, and Private Chef El Mehdi Fatat to prepare delicious dishes with Special Olympics Illinois athletes.

With Healthy Athletes, Special Olympics has become the largest public health organization specifically for people with intellectual disabilities.

Special Olympics Illinois currently offers 6 different health screening programs throughout the state: FUNFitness (physical therapy), Healthy Hearing (audiology), MedFest (sports physical exam), Opening Eyes (vision), Healthy Promotion and Special Smiles (dentistry).

Officially launched in 1997, Healthy Athletes organizes its events in a welcoming, fun environment. Its screenings educate athletes on healthy lifestyle choices and identify problems that may need additional follow-up.

From Our Family to Yours


Families play a critical role in the continued success and growth of Special Olympics Illinois. Families are the number one fans and cheerleaders of our Special Olympics athletes. They give the type of love, support, and encouragement that no one else possibly can. Special Olympics brings families together in such a positive way; it makes the cheers for our athletes even louder. The families of Special Olympics fostered 50 years of inclusion and will continue to spread the #InclusionRevolution for the next 50!

20 Years of Dedication


On November 5, 2018, the United Center hosted the 20th Annual Special Olympics Illinois MedFest. The 2018 MedFest brought 1,557 aspiring and current Special Olympics athletes from across the city of Chicago to the United Center. Athletes received free sports physicals from over 130 health professionals from Advocate Medical Group.

Special Olympics Illinois provided transportation to and from the event for all athletes, bringing them in from a network of Chicago Public Schools, the Chicago Park District, and private institutions.

Ernan Carranza, Special Olympics Illinois athlete from Graham Elementary had a great first experience at MedFest. “The doctors were very nice and made me feel comfortable and relaxed while getting my exam.”

For 20 years, the Chicago Medfest has made the seemingly impossible happen. Medfest could not happen without the continuous support of The United Center, Advocate Medical Group, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois and Levy Restaurants; the organizations have opened their doors and dedicated staff to MedFest for 20 amazing years.

“We are kind of lucky; as doctors and nurses, our job description states how we can better serve our community. When you have the opportunity to serve people with even greater challenges, it causes you to pause & reflect- you feel like your work has meaning,” said Dr. Tony Hampton, a family medicine physician with Advocate Medical Group.

Dr. Hampton has been volunteering at MedFest for the past 8 years. After year one of volunteering, Tony was hooked. He began volunteering as a way to get out and give back to his community. Every year Tony leaves MedFest feeling inspired.

“I love MedFest because it allows me to compete in the sports I love, such as basketball and track & field,” said Javier Velez- Special Olympics Illinois athlete from Graham Elementary.

This event is impactful for more than its number of athletes served; it is remembered for its continuous welcoming smiles, endless stickers, and countless high fives.

Pictures Found Here !

Meet the Staff!



Over the past 50 years, the mission and culture of our organization have made our employees the best they can possibly be. Special Olympics Illinois employees are some of the luckiest people in the world. Why? Because we get to work for the best people in the world—our athletes—and we truly love what we do. The dedication our staff brings to this organization has fostered 50 years of inclusion and will continue to spread our mission of inclusion throughout the next 50 years! #InclusionRevolution  #ChooseToInclude