To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Special Olympics, which highlights the exceptional talents of individuals with intellectual disabilities, Chicago will host a series of events and honors from July 17 to July 21 including the lighting of the Eternal Flame of Hope Monument, first-ever Special Olympics Unified Cup presented by Toyota, and the Global Day of Inclusion & Concert.
Athletes with and without intellectual disabilities from around the globe will compete at Toyota Park in Chicago during the Special Olympics Unified Cup. A total of 24 teams, male and female, with athletes from countries like Kenya, China, Korea, Mexico and Uruguay and more, will compete in the football (soccer) tournament.
This year, ESPN will broadcast final matches live on ESPN2. The tournament is a step toward more unified competitions, said Dave Breen, President and CEO of Special Olympics Illinois, adding that this year’s competitions and festivities give Illinois and Chicago a chance to show off their cultural and social highlights.
“We’re trying to create a world of inclusion and acceptance,” Breen said. “We’re really excited about showing the abilities of these athletes coming together with athletes without disabilities to play. It truly is like our World Cup.”
Runners with and without intellectual disabilities will carry the Flame of Hope torch during the four-mile LETR Commemorative Run in downtown Chicago on July 20. The commemorative torch run, led by law enforcement officers and Special Olympic athletes, will conclude with the ceremonial lighting of the Eternal Flame of Hope Monument, a 30-foot monument honoring the Special Olympics designed by Chicago-born artist Richard Hunt.
“There are 110,000 [Special Olympics] competitions that go on around the world on an annual basis, so it never stops. It never sleeps. The eternal flame symbolizes that,” Breen said. “The courage, the dedication, and the sportsmanship of the athletes—that’s always burning inside of them.”
The first Special Olympics took place at Soldier Field in 1968, a pivotal year in American history. This year at Soldier Field, Special Olympics athletes, along with their friends and families, will celebrate the Global Day of Inclusion & Concert, which calls upon cities to become more inclusive.
“We’re hoping that people will come out during the week and the weekend and get involved with some remarkable individuals that will really impact their lives [in] the future,” Breen said.
Want to help the Special Olympics make its 50th-anniversary celebration a success?
Just Give it a Try: A Lesson in Courage and Resiliency
Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’”
Saneatha Trice is a young woman that personifies Roosevelt’s words in every way, and approaches all pursuits in her life courageously and without fear. Trice, a gymnast, began competing in Special Olympics in her home state of Illinois in 8th grade, and will be competing the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle, Washington.
Saneatha Trice on the balance beam. Photo by Tara Edwards
Trice has not always been the fearless, high-flying gymnast that she is today. When asked about how she felt before her first Special Olympics competition Trice said, “I was nervous because of the crowd.” She added, “I was also very anxious because it was my first competition. I thought it lasted forever.”
She has competed all over the country through USA Gymnastics, and revels in the opportunity to meet new people and compete with athletes from across the globe. Trice attributes much of her comfort competing at a high level to meeting friends in competition from Florida to Costa Rica.
Aside from being queen of the balance beam, Trice also loves to bowl, play softball, volleyball, basketball and swim, but gymnastics holds a special place in her heart. When asked about what she loved most about gymnastics Trice said, “I love learning new vaults. When I am learning a new vault, I get to land in the ‘pit,’ which is awesome.” She went on to say, “I also get to show my mom my new tricks and it scares her,” which she said with a smile from ear-to-ear.
A lesser-known fact about Trice is her love for anime cartoons. Traveling for Special Olympics can be grueling, and watching some of her favorite anime on her phone has become her favorite pastime.
Saneatha Trice on the uneven bars. Photo by Tara Edwards
In this world we all need heroes that we can look up to. Trice finds heroic qualities in her mother, father, coaches and teachers. To cope with the nerves that come with competition Trice said, “I just look for my mom and dad. I forget about the rest of the crowd because I have to listen to my coach and my parents.”
Trice also explained that gymnastics, like many other activities in life, takes determination and resiliency. When asked about some of the most important lessons she has learned since she began competing she said, “I fall off the balance beam a lot. My coach has taught me [that] I have to get back on it until my routine is done. I can’t give up.” She added, “ I have also learned it’s okay to not always get 1st place.” Trice also stated that she enjoys seeing her friends and competitors get 1st place as well.
Aside from gymnastics, competing in Special Olympics has motivated Trice in various other aspects of her life. Most recently, the lessons learned from her years in Special Olympics has helped Trice deal with the frustrating world of mathematics. Though she may struggle, Trice said, “I don’t like math and I have to keep trying over and over until I get it right.”
Saneatha Trice on the balance beam. Photo by Tara Edwards
We can all learn a thing or two from Trice’s approach to events and activities that we may find intimidating or difficult. She recently participated in the Polar Plunge in Belleville, Illinois on March 9, 2018 where Special Olympics athletes raised money for the over 40,000 competitors at Special Olympics Illinois.
Trice has also recently received her learner’s permit and is excited to get behind the wheel. When faced with situations that may require some of that courage she has garnered from years of competing, Trice said, “I have learned to tell myself, ‘I can do this,’ instead of saying, ‘I can’t.” She went on to say, “Now I love to try new things, even if I don’t do it right the first time.”
For all those who struggle with a fear of the unknown, Saneatha Trice has a message for you. She says that you simply need to do your best to get over your fear. She also said, “Don’t think about people around you; just focus on the work in front of you.” She added, “I would tell them they can do it and to just give it a try.”
“Just give it a try.” Now that has a nice ring to it.
Jerry Shumway is a graduate student in the Strategic Communication Master of Arts Degree program at Pepperdine University.
MLS All Stars
Pro Football Weekly to Commemorate 50th Anniversary
Special Olympics and Pro Football Weekly both turn 50 this year and the celebration has begun with Pro Football Weekly’s “Team for the Ages” campaign! Now is the time to select a roster of the 50 greatest players of the last 50 years, by clicking here. Fans participating in the selection process will be eligible for grand prizes, including an all-inclusive package to the “Big Game” at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta in February 2019. Daily and weekly prizes also will be awarded during the voting from now until May 17.
Jamaal Charles, two-time All-Pro and Special Olympics athlete
Additionally, a documentary is planned for a fall 2018 release. The production will feature the players selected to the team, as well as a behind–the–scenes look at the selection process. The documentary will air on select television outlets during the 2018 season.
In September, Pro Football Weekly will screen the documentary at a VIP premier, celebrating Special Olympics 50th Anniversary as well, of which will become the beneficiary of choice, in the Chicago area. Select members of the team are expected to attend the screening.
The anniversary celebration has kicked off and is underway, when fans will be able to select a roster of the 50 greatest players of the last 50 years. Fans participating in the selection process will be eligible for grand prizes, including an all-inclusive package to the “Big Game” at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta in February 2019. Daily and weekly prizes also will be awarded during the voting, which is open now to May 17. Fans can vote for their team at ProFootballWeekly.com.
Player selections will be announced beginning June 18. PFW will name one player each day through Sept. 3. The coach of PFW’s “Team for the Ages” will be named on Sept. 4. The NFL’s regular season kicks off on Sept. 6.
A special “Team for the Ages,” collector’s edition will be published later this year. Produced in a hybrid book/magazine format, the publication will be available on newsstands and in bookstores in the fall.
Executive Editor and Special Olympics Illinois Foundation Board member, Hub Arkush has been around since PFW’s inception and has led the multimedia enterprise for over 40 years. “Over that time we’ve broken more than a little ground in how the NFL has been covered and reported on,” Arkush said. “A great deal of our focus has been based in the independent evaluation of talent. PFW was the first to select an All-Pro team from both the NFL and AFL in 1968 – several years before interleague play began.”