UPDATE: 3/28/19: We express our gratitude to President Trump for re-authorizing funding for Special Olympics school-based programming. He joins a long history of over 50 years of United States Presidents and Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle in their support of Special Olympics and the work we do in communities throughout the country.
This is a non-partisan issue and we are proud of our work to create inclusion in 6,500 U.S. schools and among young people. This is a crucial time in our schools and our communities. Programs like Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools are transforming school climates to create a safer and more inclusive world.
We are so grateful for the outpouring of support from Special Olympics athletes, young people, and the community at large and encourage everyone to continue their support of our school-based programming until we have reached all 100,000 schools in the country.
Special Olympics is a nonpartisan organization that strongly supports policies, legislation, and practices that guarantee the rights, full participation, and integration of people with intellectual disabilities (ID).
It is important to note that the presentation of the President’s budget is just one part of the budget process – immediately after it is released, negotiations begin on Capitol Hill. Special Olympics has experienced the proposed elimination of our funding before and, thanks to the phenomenal support of our bipartisan Congressional champions, was able to successfully advocate for and ensure continued funding for critical Special Olympics programming in the U.S.
We see this as an opportunity to continue raising awareness among government officials and our communities about the important work that Special Olympics is doing.
Here in IL:
Here in Illinois, federal funding was critical to initially launching and then expanding our Unified Champion Schools program into 293 total schools (including Pre-Kindergarten, Elementary, Middle, High and College) statewide over the past 10 years. The Unified Champion Schools program has been extremely effective in transforming and improving school climates through its three components: Unified Sports programming, inclusive youth leadership, and whole school engagement activities. This program has seen impressive success in Illinois and has become the fastest growing program/initiative offered.
Over the next 3 years, we have lofty goals to reach more than 500 schools around the state, including schools within the Chicago Public Schools educational system and East St. Louis School District 189 through our urban development and expansion initiative. To do that will require more than $3 million in new funding, and we look to our federal and state government, corporate, foundation and individual partners to enable us to achieve these goals.
Basketball Teams From Across the State Competed at Not One, but Two State Basketball Tournaments
It was all about the hoops this past weekend at the 2019 State Basketball Tournament hosted by Illinois State University and Illinois Wesleyan University. The tournament ran from Friday, March 15 to Sunday, March 17. Three locations, 1,650 athletes, and 520 coaches made up the 3-day event. The weekend was filled with hard work, determination, and some nail-biting games!
There was a total of 140 teams from around the State of Illinois. The teams were broken up under Junior Divisions, High School Divisions, Female Divisions and Senior Male Divisions, and Individual Skills.
After working hard on the court, athletes enjoyed dancing, laser tag, and the lighting of the torch on Saturday night. Everyone busted a move and athletes proudly showed off their medals and awards.
Over at the Peoria Civic Center, March Madness was underway. The March Madness Experience took over with fun, interactive games, exhibits and just a good time. Eight teams competed on Friday, March 15 and Saturday, March 16, for the IHSA Unified Basketball
3-time State Champions, Homewood-Flossmoor High School
Championship title. In Division 1- Homewood-Flossmoor beat Andrews in what was possibly the most exciting game of the weekend, with a final score of 60-57. David Dore, Special Education teacher and coach said this is a game to remember! “This team was comprised mostly of seniors who will graduate at the end of this year. We are losing nine players who helped start this program. To see them go out on top and play some of the best basketball I have seen from them is hard to put into words. Everyone on this team will leave HF with memories and friendships that will last a lifetime”. This makes Homewood-Flossmoor 3-time state champions! Limestone and Peotone came in third and fourth place, respectively. In Division 2- Vernon Hills beat Edwardsville, with Stevenson and LaSalle Peru coming in third and fourth place.
A big thank you to Homewood-Flossmoor High School Viking TV (VTV), who broadcasted the two IHSA Unified Basketball State Championships. VTV was on site with their students for the weekend and streamed the two championship games live, this past Saturday. They were on the courts from tip-off through awards of both games, and it was great to see the athletes showcased.
Watch IHSA Unified Basketball State Championship Here
To view pictures from the 2019 State Basketball Tournament: Click Here
View final scores of the 2019 State Basketball Tournament Here
In the Abu Dhabi Daily Show series, athlete leaders report on the events, people, and places at the 2019 World Games. The podcast series is hosted by several newly selected Sargent Shriver International Global Messengers, one of those being, our very own, Daniel Smrokowski.
Sarah King, Michele Dwyer and Sophia Vasilakopoulus in front of the Capitol Building, Washington D.C.
Special Olympics Illinois athletes Sophia Vasilakopoulos, Sarah King, and Courtney Kruger Made a Case of Impact and Need for Critical Funding on Capitol Hill
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Special Olympics athletes Sophia Vasilakopoulos, Courtney Kruger and peer partner Sarah King joined advocates from across the United States and converged on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. On February 12th, the three joined more than 250 delegates representing 44 states and the District of Columbia for Special Olympics’ 17th annual Capitol Hill Day.
Sophia, Sarah, Courtney participated in eight face-to-face meetings with Members of Congress, inviting their elected officials to partner with them to support Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools® and about the need to end health care and education disparities and discrimination against roughly 1% of the US population with intellectual disabilities.
Sophia and Sarah expressed the impact that Special Olympics Unified Champion schools has had on them and Maine South High School as a whole. Maine South High School is one of the 268 Unified schools in Illinois. The students shared how they foster a community of inclusion for all through unified activities and other opportunities their club provides. Maine South High school offers Special Olympics Unified sport teams, an inclusion club (Hawk Pals), a unified theater communications class, a program that pairs students for natural social exchanges during the passing periods and a Respect Week campaign that encourages the entire school to pledge to choose to include all individuals. All of our school activities are supported by the school through placement in the yearbook, involvement in the school assemblies and send off parades when our athletes make it to state. Courtney shared the impact of the Special Olympics health programs.
U.S. Representative, Mike Bost, from Illinois’ 12th Congressional District with SOILL Delegation and NFL Veteran, Dale Moss
“No one can better articulate a vision for a more inclusive America or demonstrate how a nation can unite as one than the athletes and Unified partners of Special Olympics,” said Tim Shriver, Chairman of Special Olympics. Shriver added, “Our athletes and youth leaders will lead us in the Inclusion Revolution, our collective fight to end discrimination for people with intellectual disabilities. But we can’t do it alone. We need governmental support to preserve laws guaranteeing the rights and full participation and integration of people with intellectual disabilities into our society.”
In more than 6,000 Unified Champion Schools across the country, Special Olympics has trained youth leaders and educators to create inclusive schools. Students with and without Intellectual Disabilities are playing and competing together through Special Olympics Unified Sports. These experiences help increase acceptance of all abilities in classrooms and are reducing stigma and bullying.
Maine South High school is proud to be able to share and promote the Special Olympic mission.
Seun Adigun Spends the Day with Special Olympics Illinois Athletes
On Monday, February 18, Seun Adigun – Double Olympian- came back home to Chicago to spend the day with the athletes of Special Olympics Illinois.
Seun’s career as an Olympic athlete has been nothing short of incredible. She represented Team Nigeria in 100m hurdles at the London 2012 Olympic Games and has competed all over the African continent. She later took on a new endeavor breaking into winter sports.
In 2016, she founded the Nigerian bobsled team. Adigun is also the first African Bobsled driver to lead a team from Nigeria to the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games. Through her love of sport, she broke down barriers.
Seun is a Global Ambassador for Special Olympics. As she leads the way to inclusion through sports, Adigun has been able to create opportunities, foster inclusivity, and encourage & motivate Special Olympics athletes around the world to push past any obstacle they may face.
Being a Chicago native, Seun’s return was particularly special.
She chose to spend her first day home with the fellow champions – the athletes of Special Olympics Illinois.
“Seun has embarked on a journey that would surpass many. Her accomplishments of not only competing in the 2012 Olympic Games, but also helping to cultivate the inaugural Nigerian bobsled team and competing last year are absolutely amazing, said Dani Chitwood, the Assistant Director of Region D for Special Olympics Illinois.
“She defied her critics and achieved greatness. It parallels the efforts of our athletes which makes her story so important.”
She visited a bowling qualifier for Search Inc., where Seun spent time cheering on the athletes as they worked to qualify for their regional competition.
Search is a community-based nonprofit whose programs serve more than 600 people and their families annually at locations stretching from the southwest side of Chicago to the northern suburbs of Waukegan and Mount Prospect.
Later that day, Seun toured Misericordia where even more Special Olympics Illinois athletes welcomed her. Misericordia serves over 600 children & adults with intellectual & developmental disabilities from diverse racial, religious, and socio-economic backgrounds.
There she was able to see the athletes in action! From powerlifting to rhythmic gymnastics practice she saw it all.
“It meant so much to be able to share time and space with the Special Olympics Illinois athletes I met on my trip to Chicago,” said Seun Adigun. “I felt the joy and determination of each person as they participated in their respective activities. Most importantly, I felt genuine love and appreciation from them when I came to show my support. It was truly an incredible feeling.”
Like Seun Adigun, Special Olympics athletes break barriers every day, they define the impossible.