Inspiring Stories 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.












Change For Champions-Meet Eve Erita


On June 28, Jewel-Osco employee and Special Olympics Illinois athlete Eve Erita thought she was attending a summer luncheon in the McHenry, Illinois Jewel-Osco break room. However, when she walked in she saw her family, friends, coworkers and even best friend and bocce partner, Gina, all sitting at the tables waiting for her. Eve has been chosen to be the face of Jewel-Osco’s “Change For Champions” at-register campaign for the month of July and everyone was there for the celebration.

Store Director, Dana Smith, gave a heartwarming speech describing how Eve, who has been an employee with Jewel-Osco since 1991, has always been a happy and helpful employee. “Her cheerful outlook, contagious smile, makes it a joy to work with. I know that every day, I come in and I’m working up front, she does miss me, she always says hello friend!”

Eve has competed in Special Olympics for over 2 decades, competing in multiple sports including basketball and bowling. She is a people person and a great team player.

“Every day she works, she comes in with a smile and a very contagious laugh,” says coworker Samantha Green.

“Her cheerful disposition and positive attitude make every day in our store a lot brighter and she is a joy to work with.”

Eve is famous for her hand-made greeting cards and her ability to remember friends and customers on their birthdays and holidays. Now it’s Eve’s turn to be celebrated – she will be featured in all of Change for Champions collateral all July long.

This promotion runs July 1-31 at 188 Jewel-Osco locations throughout Illinois, where customers will be encouraged to make a $1, $3, or $5 donation during checkout.

Congratulations Eve!

Saneatha Trice Breaks down Barriers Beyond Sport


Saneatha has been a participant with Special Olympics Illinois through PTOEC since 2014. She began in gymnastics and quickly added bowling, swimming, softball, volleyball, and basketball. We quickly realized how athletic she was and how sports became her passion. But her love of sports was not what caught our attention. Saneatha almost instantly became a social being amongst her peers making friends quickly from near and far, which was something I never thought possible since she has always been someone who stays to herself. 

Saneatha has quite the collection of medals from the past few years of competitions. She has been to state competitions in Bloomington for Gymnastics and Basketball, Decatur for Softball, and Rockford for Volleyball. Her most memorable moments were from 2018 and 2019.  During this time, she participated in the Belleville Polar Plunge, Summer Games, Outdoor Sports Festival, State Basketball, and Fall Games. She also participated in Gymnastics at the 2018 USA Games in Seattle, WA bringing home 5 gold medals! Saneatha met a tremendous amount of people during her stay at USA Games from celebrities to other athletes to many fans. I remember telling her to hold on to these moments and cherish them because it would probably never happen again. However, just a few short months after returning home we received a call inviting her to the 2019 World Games in Abu Dhabi as a level 4 gymnast for Team USA!

Traveling to the Middle East was never on her bucket list, but Special Olympics Illinois, once again, found a way to show her what she was missing. During this trip, Saneatha and the rest of Team USA left a few days earlier than families to learn and enjoy the customs of Dubai and Abu Dhabi before having the jitters of competition. It was this trip that made everything come together for us as parents and her as an athlete. As we sat at Opening Ceremonies watching the parade of athletes from all around the world, I finally realized my child who has struggled with acceptance, learning, speaking, socializing – this list can go on and on – is truly happy on the inside and out. She walked in that parade like she owned the place! During awards, she was thrilled to just be there, but when the last medal was announced for her division she began to cry. She realized she placed 1st in the world in the Vault competition. She received 3 bronze, a 4th place ribbon, and her Gold. This was her moment along with thousands of others.

During the fantastic and unbelievable year of 2018, Special Olympics was also celebrating their 50th year anniversary. Saneatha wanted to go to Chicago for the event, but we were unable to attend due to the hectic schedule the year brought us and USA Games just days before the 50th celebrations. We still celebrated within ourselves and said a silent thank you for the young lady this wonderful organization has helped her become. We now look at sports as a way for people to come together, lift others up, and celebrate the victories of life instead of dwelling on the defeats.

-Samantha’s parents, Robert and Tara Edwards


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

Hiram Brownell Visited 107 Casey’s General Stores to Spread the Special Olympics Mission



Hiram Brownell visited 107 Casey’s General Stores in the last year.  How many people can say that? After you meet the friendly, long-time Special Olympics Illinois staff and historian, you will understand.

Brownell has been involved with Special Olympics for over 50 years. His rich connection to the organization will always stay close to him.

Earlier this month, Casey’s General Store and Coca Cola teamed up for their annual campaign to benefit Special Olympics running all June long. In June 2018, this campaign sparked an idea for Brownell.

“It started with wanting to spread the word about Special Olympics Illinois, then it turned into a must-stop location on any road trip,” said Brownell.  Hiram traveled from location to location in the 50th Anniversary traveling exhibit, which serves as a moving tribute to the history of Special Olympics.

Beginning in June 2018 and ending a year later in June of 2019, Hiram Brownell visited 107 Casey’s General Stores.

From western Illinois to Indiana, Brownell made it a point to stop into every Casey’s possible. He would introduce himself to the managers, often take a group photo, and thank them for their ongoing support of the Special Olympics mission.

At each location visited he left a Special Olympics 50th Anniversary commemorative pin for each and every employee.

Brownell was not only amazed by the number of Casey’s in Illinois, but the overwhelming support from such a large company.

By traveling across state lines to visit Casey’s General Stores, Hiram Brownell met many Special Olympics supporters, volunteers, families, and friends. Each location Brownell stopped at was left with a little bit of Special Olympics history and legacy to pass along.