Inspiring Stories Stories

Tri-County Independents Take Home 2nd in the 2019 Special Olympics North America Softball Championship



Special Olympics athletes and Unified partners from the United States and Canada traveled to Tennessee to compete in the 2019 Special Olympics North America Softball Championship.

The four-day tournament allowed over 250 Special Olympics athletes and Unified partners to compete at a national level. The tournament was an outstanding display of sportsmanship, comradery, and incredible athleticism.

From Illinois, the Tri-County Independents took 2nd place in the Unified High-Performance division.

The team has participated in the softball championship since 2011. Head Coach, Larry Needham, and wife, Barb Needham, have been with the Tri-County Independents for quite some time. The coaches live by the motto, “you play as you practice,” said Larry.

On and off the playing field, the Tri-County Independents exemplify strong. At the end of the day, the Tri-County coaches want their athletes and Unified Partners to play their best, and most of all have fun.

The team worked hard to make their positive impact known. From high fives between Unified Partners to cheering rival teams on- the Tri-County Independents always end the game on a high note.

14th Annual Heritage Haul to Benefit Special Olympics IL


Join us for Village of South Holland 14th Annual Heritage Haul on September 14, 2019! The Heritage Haul features a 5K Run/Walk, 10K, and Half-Marathon. The race starts at the beautiful Veterans Memorial Park (160th & South Park Ave) in South Holland, Illinois, at 7 a.m. 50% of your registration fee directly benefits the Special Olympics Illinois- Region E, whose events and programs support athletes in South Holland and surrounding communities.

Interested in participating in the race?

Click here and enter promo code SPECIALOLYMPICS to sign-up!

For more information:
Heritage Haul Flyer



Johnston City School District Takes on the Southern Ducky Derby Dash


This summer, the Johnston City School District jumped at the chance to give back to their community.

The Johnston City High School Business Club has been involved in Special Olympics Illinois for several years and will be a part of selling ducks for the Southern Illinois Ducky Derby Dash set to take place at the Du Quoin State Fair on September 1.

“Selling ducks is a great way to help support Special Olympics Illinois and get our students and community involved to help,” says Coach Patti Parks.

“Our cheerleaders and student councils have sold ducks to raise awareness for Special Olympics Illinois, and raise money for our division at the same time.”

The club has sold ducks all over southern Illinois including at the Johnston City fireworks show and outside of Walmart. They will continue sales at the Du Quoin State Fair on Sunday, August 25.

Last year was the second year for Johnston City Elementary to have an athlete participate in Special Olympics Illinois. Matthew Garza, 9, from Johnston City, Illinois participates in both athletics and basketball. His Johnston City Elementary classmates were excited to watch him compete in the Region K Spring Games where Matthew took home first place in both the 25-meter wheelchair race and the tennis ball throw in 2018 and 2019. Matthew is always determined to play his best, even skipping recess to practice his tennis ball throwing.

“We are looking forward to adding more Special Olympics Illinois athletes to the JC Quack Attack Tribe this year as well as attending the Southern Illinois Ducky Derby Dash.”


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.












2019 Special Olympics Unified Sports MLS All-Star Match


MLS, ESPN and Special Olympics have teamed up to promote an environment of social inclusion by uniting people with and without intellectual disabilities through Special Olympics Unified Sports®.

The cornerstone to the collaboration is the Unified Sports Soccer Exchange Program. Unified soccer teams travel to MLS markets to compete in exhibition matches scheduled in conjunction with MLS club matches. MLS Clubs provide unique experiences such as signing days, jersey unveils, buddy programs with MLS first-team players, and gameday recognition. Unified teams represent their home MLS Club, outfitted in authentic uniforms provided by Adidas.

The team will depart on Friday, August 3, for a Unified Match in Houston Texas. The initial match will be held at Houston Sports Park – 12131 Kirby Dr, Houston TX 77045. The team will play 2 – 45 min half match vs. the Unified Houston Dynamos.

Team Bios


Unified Partners:

The Special Olympics Unified Sports All-Star Soccer Experience presented by MLS WORKS & ESPN is an opportunity to showcase the athletes and partners who participate in the Unified Exchange program in local communities throughout the United States and Canada. The 2019 Unified All-Star Experience will take place from Monday, July 29 to Thursday, August 1 in Orlando, Florida as part of 2019 MLS All-Star Week festivities.Two athletes from Illinois will be participating, Allison Schaar and Mike Brennan.