Archive Stories

Meet the 2019 Unified Coaster Challenge Ambassadors


Register for the 2019 Coaster Challenge today!

Ride Coasters for a great cause! Six Flags Great America and Special Olympics Illinois have teamed up for the Coaster Challenge on Saturday, September 21. Take the run out of racing & ride your way to the finish line to support the athletes of Special Olympics Illinois.

Register for $25, fundraise and ride the distance of a 5K, 10K, Half Marathon or Marathon on Six Flags Great America’s world-class roller coasters.

All Coaster Challenge participants will receive early entry to the park to kick-start their day.

Challengers will get V.I.P access to ride Maxx Force from 9:00-11:00 am and Whizzer from 9:30-11:00 am, allowing participants to get extra laps in before the park opens.

Registration is now open at

Register Now



Meet the 2019 Unified Coaster Challenge Ambassadors:

Special Olympics Illinois athlete and Unified Partner, Anna Scholler and Sydney Baumstark are the 2019 Unified Coaster Challenge ambassadors. Anna and Sydney, both Libertyville residents, became friends through Special Olympics. They play on a Unified soccer team called the Libertyville Storm. The girls share a love for soccer and roller coasters.

Anna has been a Special Olympics athlete for several years. She competes in basketball, bocce, bowling, floor hockey, track & field, and soccer. Anna just recently graduated from Libertyville High School.

Sydney is a sophomore at Libertyville high school. She believes being involved in Special Olympics as a Unified Partner is very important. Being a Unified Partner, Sydney has learned the power and positivity of sport.

“We are more similar then we are different, regardless of our ability level. We all have the opportunity to succeed through sport,” said Sydney.

Anna and Sydney are true thrill-seekers In their free time, you will find Anna and Sydney on their favorite roller coasters, the Raging Bull and X-Flight. Anna and Sydney are honored and excited to be the Unified Coaster Challenge Ambassadors this year.












Meet Maria Meyer- 2019 Duck Derby Ambassador


Over 60,000 rubber ducks will drop off the Wabash Bridge into the Chicago River at 1 p.m. August 8, 2019! The 14th Annual Chicago Ducky Derby to benefit Special Olympics Illinois enthralls people of all ages who watch the ducks “race” to the finish line.

Special Olympics Illinois athlete and 2019 Duck Derby Ambassador, Maria Meyer will be at the finish line to hold up the winning duck.

Maria is a free-spirited 20-year-old from Hinsdale, Illinois where she lives with her parents, siblings, and German Shepherd, Ozzie. She graduated from Hinsdale Central High School in 2017 where she was a four-year member of the Special Olympics basketball team as well as the track and field team. Maria was also a varsity cheerleader.

She is currently a student at the Hinsdale South Transition Center and hopes to attend college in the fall of 2021. Maria loves to play sports, sing and is involved in the performing arts. She has medaled in the Special Olympics State Summer Games for the past eight years. Maria also qualified for the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games last year in Seattle, Washington where she medaled in the swim competition. An aspiring thespian, Maria is a member of the ensemble of A.B.L.E., a performing arts group that provides opportunities to individuals with developmental differences. In her spare time, Maria loves to travel. She has visited 38 of our 50 states and 16 foreign countries. Maria is honored to be the Ducky Derby Ambassador.

Ducks are available for adoption for $5 online at and in person on race day, August 8, beginning at 7 a.m. at 400 N. Michigan Avenue. Sales close prior to Splashdown at 12:30 p.m. The Family Festival begins at 10 a.m. in Pioneer Plaza and features roaming entertainment, prizes, face painting, and the Ducky Derby mascot Splash. The festival will have live entertainment performed by 7th Heaven, a Chicago-based rock band who’s charted #1 on Midwest Billboard Charts three times.

Last year’s event sold out with 60,000 ducks adopted and raised more than $420,000 for Special Olympics Illinois.  This year, Special Olympics Illinois aims to sell 65,000 rubber ducks.  Join Special Olympics Illinois on August 8, 2019, for the 14th Annual Chicago Ducky Derby! #ChiDuckyDerby

Congratulations to Jose Moreno: 2019 Niles North Distinguished Alumnus Award Recipient













Each year, Niles North High School recognizes one alumnus for their outstanding contributions beyond their high school career. Jose Moreno, Niles North Alumni, and Special Olympics Illinois athlete was selected as the 2019 recipient.

The award was presented by Dr. James B. Edwards, Principal of Niles North High School. Jose was chosen by the Alumni Associate upon review of the recommendations from both staff and the community. The Distinguished Alumnus Award recognizes an outstanding Niles North graduate who exemplifies courage, determination, and the will to push past adversity. Jose portrays all of these qualities.

Jose got his start with Special Olympics Illinois in 2009 when he began competing in basketball. Over the last several years he has been victorious in floor hockey, golf, bocce, softball, volleyball, and his current favorite, bowling. Jose also serves as an athlete leader where he has the opportunity to share his story with the community.

“I am honored and humbled to receive the 2019 Distinguished Alumnus Award. It means so much to me to be recognized for my talents beyond my disability,” says Jose Moreno, 2019 Distinguished Alumnus Award recipient.

“I am so proud that I am teaching other students that your disability does not stop you from following your dreams, including applying for the distinguished alumnus award!”

Jose attributes his success to the extraordinary staff at Niles North High School and his life-changing experiences as a Special Olympics Illinois athlete.








Governor Pritzker Proclaims Special Olympics Illinois Day



On May 29, 2019, First Lady Pritzker invited Special Olympics Illinois athletes and leaders to a special lunch. That afternoon, a small group gathered at the Illinois Governor’s Mansion (also known as the “people’s house”) to be honored. The afternoon kicked off with a tour of the historic property in Springfield, Illinois. Then, one by one, athletes and their family members introduced themselves to Governor JB Pritzker and his wife, MK.

Special Olympics Illinois Board Chair, Karen Atwood, and Dave Breen, President & CEO, Special Olympics Illinois, gave short speeches that expressed deep gratitude for support the organization and graciously opening the people’s house to Special Olympics Illinois.

Immediately following, Governor Pritzker cited outstanding accomplishments and gifts Illinois has brought to the nation and beyond – noting one major highlight: Special Olympics. He congratulated and celebrated the success of the athletes, especially the five athletes and two Unified Partners in attendance that had competed (and medaled) at the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019. Governor Pritzker then proclaimed May 29 as Special Olympics Illinois Day.

First Lady Pritzker then presented each athlete and Unified Partner with a certificate for outstanding achievements within Special Olympics Illinois.

Later, Governor Pritzker tweeted his excitement over the afternoon’s festivities saying, “Each of you makes each of your communities happier, better and more inclusive.”

We thank the Pritzkers for their generous support of the athletes and their families and look forward to celebrating May 29 for years to come!

Casey’s & Coca-Cola team up to Support Special Olympics



During the entire month of June, Casey’s General Store and Coca Cola are teaming up to benefit Special Olympics!

You can be part of the team!  Just stop by your local Casey’s General Store and round-up your total to the nearest dollar as a donation to Special Olympics.  Additionally, Casey’s will donate 10 cents to this campaign when customers purchase a pizza slice and any 20 oz. Coca-Cola drink for $4.  All donations directly benefit the athletes of Special Olympics, specifically aiding with equipment and facility needs, meals and other related program costs.

It’s as simple as that!  Hurry in to your local Casey’s to also get your commemorative Special Olympics fountain drink cup…once they’re gone, they’re gone!  Click here to find a Casey’s near you.