July 2013 Newsletter


 

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Lives Transformed Around Every Corner at Summer Games

Joshua Groenewold of District 54 celebrates as he crosses the finish line in the 4x100-meter relay race.

Joshua Groenewold celebrates as he crosses the finish line in the 4×100-meter relay race.

Summer Games was a life-changing event for nearly 4,000 athletes and the families, coaches and volunteers who cheered them on. Around every corner there were stories of how Special Olympics has transformed lives – from Reem Abdelmeguid who autographed T-shirts with her winning 45th anniversary design to Breanna Bogucki who sang her new single in front of thousands at the Victory Dance; from retired Quincy University coach Jack Mackenzie who now coaches a Special Olympics soccer team to “Rocket Man” Jordan VanKooten who visualizes rockets on his shoes that power his walk race and Rachel McGrew who went the distance on the track in memory of her father. Also at Summer Games, we honored our Outstanding Award winners at the Summer Games Reception. View photos and video from Summer Games and check results.

Gearing Up for Windy City Rubber Ducky Derby

Ela Stoklosa hams it up with Splash the Duck

Ela Stoklosa hams it up with Splash the Duck

Now that the Summer Games are over, our athletes are “training” for the 8th Annual  Windy City Rubber Ducky Derby on Aug. 8 in downtown Chicago. The Darling Ducklings, a group of Global Messengers, have been busy selling “adoptions” to raise money for a cause near and dear to their hearts – Special Olympics Illinois. And athlete Ela Stoklosa sweetens the deal by delivering duck-shaped cookies to those who donate to her duck sales effort.  There are over 100 duck sales teams this year – both corporate and independent teams.

The Windy City Rubber Ducky Derby kicks off at 10 a.m. Aug. 8 at 400 N. Michigan Ave. (The Wrigley Building) with the Family Festival. Splashdown for the Duck Derby is at 1 p.m. off the Columbus Street Bridge. To adopt a duck, visit http://www.duckrace.com/chicago.

 

News from President & CEO

By Dave Breen, President & CEO

Dave Breen

In a recent USA Today article, Boston doctor Brian Skotko used the phrase “life coach for all of us” in describing his sister with Down syndrome. Those of us fortunate enough to be involved with Special Olympics have already learned many lessons from our “life coaches.”

For many individuals in our program – from individuals with Down Syndrome, those on the Autism Spectrum or those with a variety of other issues that provide them the opportunity to participate in Special Olympics – they are often seen only for their disability. But it is their abilities that are truly incredible! Read More

Share Your Special Olympics Story With Us

Giving it EverythingWe know Special Olympics has transformed your life or the lives of your loved ones. Now we want to hear the story of that transformation directly from those involved. Truly, no one can capture the excitement and joy of your tales quite like you!

Special Olympics Illinois is holding a story-sharing contest through Aug. 30, with winners to be determined by a small committee who know and love Special Olympics as much as you do.  If your story is chosen, you could receive a number of exciting prizes and be featured in multiple Special Olympics Illinois promotional pieces throughout 2014. Your involvement in Special Olympics has inspired us; now it is your chance to connect with and inspire thousands more across the state. Click here to learn more about the contest and to submit your story today. This is open to athletes, coaches, volunteers, family, friends and fans.

Benefit Lunch at Texas Roadhouse on July 26

TXRH-LogoTexas Roadhouse restaurants will be teaming up with local law enforcement officers on Friday, July 26, for a Benefit Lunch to support Special Olympics Illinois. Local officers will serve a “free” lunch of a limited menu from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.  This exclusive lunch at all 11 Texas Roadhouse locations in Illinois includes a pulled pork sandwich, corn, freshly baked bread with honey-cinnamon butter and a non-alcoholic beverage. Read More

Outdoor Sports Festival Date Change

The date of the Outdoor Sports Festival in Decatur has been changed to Sept. 14-15. Dates published in the 2013 Facts & Forms/Policies & Procedures late last year were incorrect. The Outdoor Sports Festival includes competition in softball, golf and Unified golf.

 

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Michele Panozzo Named Athlete of the Year

Michele Panozzo, left, receives her award with Dave Breen and Ashley Cain

Michele Panozzo, left, receives her award with Dave Breen and Ashley Cain

Michele Panozzo, 33, of Rockford was named 2013 Special Olympics Illinois Outstanding Athlete of the Year. She was honored at a reception held on June 14 before the Special Olympics Illinois Summer Games Opening Ceremonies at Illinois State University in Normal.

The Outstanding Athlete Award recognizes a Special Olympics Illinois athlete whose achievements, dedication and commitment to their team and themselves exemplifies the purpose of Special Olympics.

Michele started in Special Olympics in 1988 when she was 8 years old.  She has been on her current team, the Rockford Red Hots, for 20 years. Michele has competed in a variety of sports during a quarter-century including athletics (track & field), basketball, bowling, softball and bocce. Read More

Devines Named Family of the Year

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Bill, Nikki, Madison and CJ Devine receive their award with Attorney General Lisa Madigan

Bill, Nikki, Madison and CJ Devine of Tinley Park have been named 2013 Special Olympics Illinois Outstanding Family of the Year. They were honored at a reception held on June 14 before the Special Olympics Illinois Summer Games Opening Ceremonies at Illinois State University in Normal.

The Outstanding Family Award recognizes a family with a Special Olympics athlete that has made unique and lasting contributions not only benefiting their athletes but also every aspect of the Special Olympics Illinois program.

In 2006, Bill and Nikki Devine’s son CJ was born with Down syndrome.  CJ participates in the Special Olympics Young Athletes Program and is one of the most amazing Young Athletes that you will ever meet. Their daughter, Madison, is a peer buddy with CJ during Young Athletes events, encouraging him and the other athletes, rewarding them for a job well done. Read More

High School Basketball Team Receives State Championship Rings

When the Homewood-Flossmoor High School Vikings “three-peated” by winning their high school division at the Special Olympics Illinois State Basketball Tournament in March, they secured a spot in the record books at their school.

Homewood-Flossmoor HS ringsOn May 21, they received another sort of recognition that was also a first for the school district – all 11 members of the Special Olympics team and its three coaches were presented with State Championship rings before the last school board meeting of the year. Seven team volunteers also received pendants.

Each student was individually called forward by their name and jersey number and presented with their ring. Afterwards, the school board held a reception complete with cupcakes. “The school board was very enthusiastic for our players,” said David Dore, Homewood-Flossmoor Special Education teacher and Special Olympics coach. Read More

Project UNIFY

“At that start of this school year I was given a wonderful opportunity to become a member on the Youth Activation Committee for Project Unify Illinois.  Before this year, I had never volunteered for the Special Olympics nor had I heard of Project UNIFY. I had only helped some of the athletes at my school with their studies, so this was a completely new experience for me.

Project UNIFY1I remember my first day at the YAC boot camp. It was freezing cold, and we were going to be outside volunteering for the Unified Soccer Tournament. I wasn’t sure what to expect at first.  However, I had a great time. It was awesome to see the athletes and Partners working together. Throughout the year, I’ve learned more than I possibly could have ever imagined. To start I learned what it means to be part of a team.

I was a peer partner to Bailey Keiser, and while we weren’t on a Unified sports team together, she and I were a team. We bounced ideas off of each other and we worked together. Not only did I realize what true teamwork and cooperation was, I learned that the old adage ‘you can do anything you set your mind to’ is true. I want to help people. I always have and always will want to.

I am so thankful to Project UNIFY for giving me that opportunity. It was an amazing year and I so look forward to next year!”

By Madeline Hermann, Normal Community West High School student

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Madeline Hermann, left, and Bailey Keiser work on a computer project

Special Olympics Project UNIFY is an education-based project  that uses the sports and education programs of Special Olympics to activate young people to promote school communities where all young people are agents of change – fostering respect, dignity and advocacy for people with intellectual disabilities. Special Olympics believes that through sports young people can make a difference in friendships, schools and communities.

Project UNIFY is youth driven, with a Youth Activation Committee (YAC) made up of young people representing middle schools, high schools and colleges nationwide.  Members of the committee work together over the course of the year to develop strategies promoting school communities where all young people are agents of change.  During their time on the committee, YAC members provide leadership to Special Olympics and Project UNIFY by participating in Special Olympics events, providing advice and counsel on strategies to reach other youths, engaging in and promoting Special Olympics activities in their home environments, communicating and networking via Web connectivity with other youth, and reviewing Project UNIFY materials for innovation and viability.

Are you interested in your school becoming a Project UNIFY School?  Do you have a student that you feel would be perfect for the Youth Activation Committee?  Please  contact Jennifer Marcello at 630-200-7693 with any questions related to Project UNIFY.

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Stacey Metheney Named Coach of the Year

Stacey Metheney works with a Young Athletes

Stacey Metheney works with a Young Athletes

Stacey Metheney of Belleville has been named 2013 Special Olympics Illinois Outstanding Coach of the Year. She was honored at a reception held on June 14 before the Special Olympics Illinois Summer Games Opening Ceremonies at Illinois State University in Normal. Two of her athletes, Tony Hill and Jim Morgan, accepted the award for Metheney.

The Outstanding Coach Award recognizes the coach who best demonstrates the true ideals of coaching profession, who leads by example and expects athletes to set and strive to reach goals. As a coach of Special Olympics Illinois athletes, he or she must demonstrate both technical skills and personal commitment to the physical, social and psychological well-being of the athletes.

Fan, friend, volunteer, fundraiser, supporter and coach are all just a few words that can be used to describe Metheney.  For more than 19 years, she has dedicated her life to helping individuals with intellectual disabilities.

It is the passion, strength and courage that she brings with her involvement that has made a world of difference to so many athletes over the years.  Metheney is more than just a coach.  She is a friend, a confidant and supporter to every athlete she coaches.  She not only coaches them in sports, but also in life.  It is by her example and strength that the athletes are able to overcome some of their most trying moments. Read More

Retired Quincy University Soccer Coach Back in the Game

Seth Coons, a player with the Transitions of Adams County Stars & Stripes team, couldn’t believe his eyes when he showed up to his first soccer practice earlier this year.

Coach Jack Mackenzie gives instructions during practice in Quincy. (Herald-Whig Photo by Steve Bohnstedt)

Coach Jack Mackenzie gives instructions during practice in Quincy.

A longtime fan of Quincy University soccer, Coons walked on to the field and saw longtime Hawks coach Jack Mackenzie getting ready to run practice. Now retired, Mackenzie had agreed to coach the team this year.

“I was just nervous,” Coons, 37, said. “He’s a good guy. He is working very hard for us.”

The experience of coaching the team is like nothing else Mackenzie has experienced in a coaching career that spans more than 40 years and includes nine national championships.

“I’m getting more out of it than I’m putting into it,” Mackenzie said. “I’m a real rookie here with Special Olympics. I’m at Peg 1 at the bottom,” he said. Read More

Easing Young Athletes’ Transition to Traditional Program

There are Young Athletes who are turning 8 years old statewide this year and will be looking to continue their Special Olympics careers in traditional programs.  Our Young Athletes staff (Jen Marcello, Manager of the Young Athletes Program; Jacquelin Kogut, Northern Coordinator; and Bailey Brenner, Central/Southern Coordinator) needs your help as a coach to ensure these athletes are staying in Special Olympics as long as they want.  Young Athletes staff is working with individual families to assist them with placing their Young Athlete in a traditional program.

For those who are unfamiliar with the Young Athletes Program, it is an innovative sports play program designed for 2- to 7-year-olds, with and without intellectual disabilities, to learn the fundamental sports skills prior to participation in Special Olympics at age 8.

The transition from Young Athletes to the traditional Special Olympics program is vital to the success of the organization, as both athletes and volunteers are needed.  It is important that those athletes who began training as Young Athletes continue to increase their confidence, physical abilities and learn valuable life lessons from competing as an individual or as part of a team in a traditional program setting.

The transition from the Young Athletes program to the traditional Special Olympics program begins at age 6.  When an athlete turns 6 years old, he or she may begin training in any official sport. Currently, traditional Young Athletes have the opportunity to participate in exhibitions at the following state competitions:

  • Outdoor Sports Festival in Decatur (mid-September) – Individual Softball Skills and Individual Golf Skills
  • Winter Games in Galena (late January) – 50-Meter and 100-Meter Snowshoe races
  • State Basketball in Normal (mid-March) – Individual Basketball Skills
  • Summer Games in Normal (mid-June) – 50-Meter Run and Tennis Ball Throw or Soccer Individual Skills

With the transition beginning at the age of 6 for these Young Athletes, they will need a program to train with.  Young Athletes staff is working with each family to find out what they are interested in, where they are located and how best we can serve them, but the Young Athletes staff will need help from you. Young Athletes staff may call upon you to help locate the best program for each Young Athlete in your area.  The objective is to have an agency ready for each willing Young Athlete to smoothly transition into once they turn 8.

The Young Athletes staff looks forward to working with you so we can successfully transition these athletes into Special Olympics and continue the growth and development of this amazing organization.

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Dave Hayes Named Outstanding Volunteer of the Year

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Dave Hayes, left, receives his award with Dave Breen and Ashley Cain

Dave Hayes of Seattle, Wash., and formerly of Bloomington, Normal and Springfield has been named 2013 Special Olympics Illinois Outstanding Volunteer of the Year. He was honored at a reception held on June 14 before the Special Olympics Illinois Summer Games Opening Ceremonies at Illinois State University in Normal.

The Outstanding Volunteer Award recognizes an individual who through their voluntary efforts improve the quality of the Special Olympics Illinois Program to benefit all aspects of the organization.

Hayes has been a longtime volunteer for Special Olympics Illinois and currently serves as Athletics Venue Director at Summer Games. Read More

Goodwill Northern Illinois Named Organization of the Year

SOA-61-OrganizationGoodwill Northern Illinois has been named 2013 Special Olympics Illinois Outstanding Organization of the Year. Sam Schmits, President of Goodwill Industries of Northern Illinois & Wisconsin Stateline, and Courtney Gieger, Mission Services Director,  accepted the award at a reception held on June 14 before the Special Olympics Illinois Summer Games Opening Ceremonies at Illinois State University in Normal.

The Outstanding Organization Award recognizes a club, business or organization whose efforts have significantly improved the Special Olympics Illinois athletes’ experiences either locally or statewide.

For the past 29 years, the office of Special Olympics Illinois Northwestern/Area 1 has been housed with Goodwill Northern Illinois. The partnership between Goodwill Northern Illinois and Special Olympics Illinois has been crucial to the success of the organization.  Goodwill has provided the facility, along with the reception, copy, phone and fax machines. Read More

Golf & Ice Cream Bring Athletes & Buddies Together

Everyone has stories to tell. For the past two years, Mike Chmielewski of West Dundee has organized what he calls “the Buddy’s Outing.” Composed of 24 buddies and 24 athletes, the outing is an opportunity for Special Olympics athletes to golf with a buddy and share their stories with them. The outing was at Bartlett Hills Golf Club on May 9 from 1 to 4 p.m. They played nine holes of golf and enjoyed ice cream afterwards.

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From left, Pat Prom, Francisco Vela, Ben Brizzolara and Mike Chmielewski at Buddy’s Outing.

“We have a lot of rules. The rules are: we don’t have any rules,” said Chmielewski. “It’s not about raising the money. It’s not about playing golf. It’s the interaction with the athletes. Most of the buddies really haven’t had the opportunity to interact with people with special needs. I just said “Listen to them, listen to their stories, talk to them. Don’t treat them any differently. They don’t want to be treated any different. You’re their buddy for the couple hours that we play golf.’ ”

In the two years the Buddy’s Outing has occurred, they’ve raised more than $4,000.

“Our goal initially was to help send an athlete, family, coach to the 2014 National Games,” said Chmielewski. He will be donating the money raised to Special Olympics to use as needed. Read More

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Devines Named Family of the Year

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Bill, Nikki, Madison and CJ Devine receive their award with Attorney General Lisa Madigan

Bill, Nikki, Madison and CJ Devine of Tinley Park have been named 2013 Special Olympics Illinois Outstanding Family of the Year. They were honored at a reception held on June 14 before the Special Olympics Illinois Summer Games Opening Ceremonies at Illinois State University in Normal.

The Outstanding Family Award recognizes a family with a Special Olympics athlete that has made unique and lasting contributions not only benefiting their athletes but also every aspect of the Special Olympics Illinois program.

In 2006, Bill and Nikki Devine’s son CJ was born with Down syndrome.  CJ participates in the Special Olympics Young Athletes Program and is one of the most amazing Young Athletes that you will ever meet. Their daughter, Madison, is a peer buddy with CJ during Young Athletes events, encouraging him and the other athletes, rewarding them for a job well done. Read More

 

Mark Your Calendars for TRYathlon

TRYathlon2Mark your calendars for 10 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 29, for the 3rd Annual Young Athletes TRYathlon. This event offers a fun and engaging way to help support our 12,000 Young Athletes ages 2-7 in the state of Illinois.  Similar to the athletes we support, this event requires high energy, bravery and is a lot of fun! This exciting event will take place at DuPage County Forest Preserve-Danada (3S580 Naperville Rd., Wheaton, IL 60189) and will consist of a 1-mile run, 3.5-mile bike ride and an obstacle course containing 12 stations including tunnels, inflatable slides and hurdles.

Participants can register as an individual or as a family. The registration fee is $35 for an individual and $100 for a family of four. Register online now.

Outdoor Sports Festival

Outdoor Sports FestivalSummer Games has come to a close which means the Special Olympics Illinois Outdoor Sports Festival is up next! For the fourth year in a row, Young Athletes aged 6 and 7 will be invited to participate and showcase their talent in Decatur!  For the first time, Young Athletes will have the opportunity to participate in Golf Individual Skills in addition to Softball Individual Skills (base running, throwing, fielding and hitting).

Last year, more than 600 Special Olympics Illinois traditional athletes took to the softball fields and golf course arena in Decatur.

If you are interested in having your Young Athlete attend, please complete a registration form and return it to the Special Olympics office before Tuesday, Aug. 13.

Coordinators of the Month – Liesz & Luzwick at District 54

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Lisa Liesz with Young Athlete Dominick LaPrairie

Lisa Liesz and David Luzwick, two District 54 staff members, are great supporters of Special Olympics Illinois. Liesz and Luzwick serve as the Special Olympics Athletic Directors for District 54, the original Young Athletes site. They travel to 14 schools within the district to train more than 1,200 Young Athletes. Liesz and Luzwick recently attended the 2013 State Summer Games with two Young Athletes from District 54 participating in the statewide Culminating Event and exhibitions events for Individual Soccer Skills and Athletics.

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David Luzwick with Young Athlete Dominick LaPrairie

In addition to coaching Young Athletes, Liesz and Luzwick also coach traditional Special Olympics athletes in 13 sports, plus coordinating six recognized Project Unify schools.

Jacquelin Kogut, Northern Region Young Athletes Coordinator, states “It is truly a pleasure to work with both David and Lisa. Their passion and dedication to their athletes, schools and Special Olympics Illinois is amazing.”  Special Olympics Illinois Young Athletes is very appreciative of the work from these coordinators and thank them for all they do for their athletes!

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Areas 2, 3, 5, 13, 16 & 18

Pumpkin Pedal to Benefit Many Northern Areas

Special Olympics Illinois Areas 2, 3, 5, 13, 16 & 18 will be joining forces to host the Pumpkin Pedal Bike Tour fundraiser on Oct. 6.

There will be trail rides of 10, 20 and 28 miles and road rides of 40 and 65 miles. All rides will begin and end at Leroy Oakes Forest Preserve on Dean Street just west of Randall Road in St. Charles. Entry forms are due Sept. 27 to receive your Pumpkin Pedal T-shirt on the day of the ride.

Registration will begin at 7:30 a.m. and riders may start anytime from 7:45-10 a.m. Bike helmets are required. This event will take place rain or shine. A post ride meal will be served from 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

For more information, call 224-234-8635, or email Sandy Hutchins or Dan Conley. Download a registration form here.

Area 3

Spring Games a Success

GE Photo 4-webSpecial Olympics Illinois Chicago/Area 3 welcomed more than 3,300 athletes to the 45th Annual Spring Games.

Opening Ceremonies were held at historic Soldier Field on May 7 and guests heard dignitaries from the Chicago Park District, Chicago Public School, Special Children’s Charities and Special Olympics Illinois cheer athletes from almost every Chicago neighborhood.

Competitions included wheelchair races, assisted races, softball and tennis ball throw, shot put, running long jump and standing long jump.  Athletes competed from May 8-10 at Eckersall Stadium.

Support was shared from many to fund the Area 3 Spring Games and included Mattel, BlueCross Blue Shield Association, GE, Goldman Sachs, the Knights of Columbus and the Law Enforcement Torch Run.  And of course, hundreds of volunteers shared their time and talents to make the week a success for everyone.

Gale Street Inn Hosts Fundraiser

In celebration of its 50th anniversary, Gale Street Inn hosted a fundraiser and shared proceeds with Chicago/Area 3.

Kevin Matthews 2Located at 4914 N. Milwaukee in the Jefferson Park neighborhood of Chicago, Gale Street Inn has been serving customers for 50 years.  As a way to thank customers and the community for 50 years of business, owner George Karzas has partnered with 12 local non-profits.  Each month of 2013, Gale Street Inn is hosting charity events.

On May 21, Gale Street Inn hosted a “Night with Radio Legend Kevin Matthews” and donated all proceeds to Special Olympics Illinois.  The evening included a delicious buffet and beverages, in addition to a Question and Answer hour with Kevin Matthews that had guests laughing loudly.

Throughout the month of May, which Gale Street Inn designated as Special Olympics Illinois month, guests to the restaurant enjoyed the opportunity to share a donation and spin a wheel making them eligible to win a variety of prizes also shared by Gale Street Inn.

It was a great evening with lots of laughter and delicious food and many new friendships were experienced.

The Laugh Factory Opened Doors for Contest        

The Laugh Factory recognized as the “#1 Comedy Club in the Country” recently hosted The Funniest Chicago Media Person contest.

Harry Teinowitz, former ESPN radio sports announcer and friend of Chicago/Area 3, participated at the event which was held on June 10.  The Laugh Factory, located at 3175 Broadway, Chicago, welcomed more than 10 local radio, television and newspaper staff to the contest.  Each contestant selected a non-profit to receive a donation if they were determined to be the funniest Chicago media person.

Although Harry Teinowitz didn’t win the contest, the show was a great success and entertained a sold out audience throughout the evening.

Area 4

Go Over the Edge to Support Special Olympics

Over the Edge -TomThompson5268Are you a fan enough to go Over the Edge for Special Olympics Illinois and Special Olympics Iowa?

Be one of the few to rappel off a 131-foot building – the Hotel Blackhawk in downtown Davenport!  Join us on Wednesday, Oct. 30,and go Over the Edge!

Register online today. View Over the Edge brochure.

Area 6

Business Before Hours

Special Olympics Illinois hosted the McLean County Chamber of Commerce Business Before Hours at it’s State Headquarters in Tribute Park in Normal from 7-8:30 a.m. June 26.

BBHThe event was made possible by corporate sponsors Nicor Gas and Commerce Bank who helped cover the hosting fees and other expenses such as food and tent rental for the event.

Business Before Hours are monthly get-togethers that are open to all McLean County Chamber members and offer opportunities to network, connect and socialize with local community businesses and organizations.

Approximately 125 guests attended the event in Tribute Park and got to learn more about Special Olympics Illinois, its events and its athletes.

State Farm Student-Athlete Recognition Banquet Honors Special Olympics Athletes

Drew White with State Farm Sponsorship Coordinator John Althoff

Drew White with State Farm Sponsorship Coordinator John Althoff

Drew White of SOAR and Katy Peifer from Olympia School District were honored as the Male and Female Special Olympics Athletes of the Year at the 6th annual State Farm Student-Athlete Recognition Banquet held at the Holiday Inn & Suites on June 20.

Drew, who attends Normal West and competes with SOAR, has competed for more than six years in athletics, aquatics, softball, bowling, basketball, tennis and volleyball. He is also involved with the Penguin Project and works at Advocate BroMenn in the cafeteria. Drew is very active and loves to dance, play sports and encourage his teammates.

Katy Pifer with State Farm Sponsorship Coordinator John Althoff.

Katy Pifer with State Farm Sponsorship Coordinator John Althoff.

Katy is a graduating senior from Olympia High School. She has participated in basketball, athletics, T-ball and bowling for seven years through SOAR. She always encourages and helps her teammates and helped recruit athletes to be a part of Olympia Special Olympics when they began their program two years ago.

Josiah Copass from SOAR and Nathan Hawley from Olympia were nominees for Male Special Olympics Athlete of the Year. Bailey Keiser from Tri-Valley Special Olympics and Rachel McGrew from Tri-Valley were nominees for Female Special Olympics Athlete of the Year. Special Olympics coach Glenda Walsh from Tri-Valley was a nominee for Coach of the Year for a female sport.

Illinois Wesleyan University Women’s Basketball Coach Mia Smith and Special Olympics Illinois Global Messenger Kirsten Boswell delivered keynote addresses.

Area 7

Construction Team Picnic A Huge Success

A Special Olympics athlete plays bags at the Construction Team Picnic.

The 14th Annual Construction Team Picnic was held June 1 at Allstate’s Northbrook Campus. This year’s picnic was another success for SOILL South Cook-Will/Area 7. More than 300 athletes, coaches and families were treated to fun, food and a DJ for dancing. Everyone in attendance also received a T-shirt and goodie bag.

Each year a small committee from local construction companies puts this event together. This year, 27 sponsor companies donated more than $14,750 for Area 7 athletes. Thanks to the continued efforts of Jon DeMaine, Corrine Rossi, Maureen Lucenti and Mike Schutten, Area 7 is able to host this summer kick-off picnic every year. Mark your calendars for next year – Saturday, June 7, 2014.

Area 16

5K Foam Fest a Muddy, Soapy Run

More than 6,500 individuals participated in the 5K Foam Fest June 1-2 at Off Road Racing in Ottawa.  The 5K Foam Fest offered participants the chance to get dirty and clean off while supporting Special Olympics Illinois. The fun, foamy and muddy run was like running a 5K through a car wash!

Special Olympics Illinois received $27,302  from proceeds of the 5K Foam Fest. View photos from 5K Foam Fest.

Annual Auction to Benefit Area 16

SOILL Starved Rock/Area 16 will host its 11th Annual Auction on Thursday, Aug. 1, at Celebrations 150 in Utica from 6-9 p.m.  The theme of this year’s event is Viva Las Vegas and will feature a variety of live and silent auction items available for bid. Presenting sponsors are Miller Group Charitable Trust and WOLF 96.5.

Reservations are $30 per person and can be made online at area16auction.eventbrite.com or by calling Cheryl De Paepe at 815-220-8128.

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Joe Peña Named Lifetime Service Award Winner

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Joe Pena receives his award with Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Tom Reasoner

Ignacio “Joe” Peña of Channahon has been named winner of the 2013 Special Olympics Illinois Lifetime Service Award. He was honored at a reception held on June 14 before the Special Olympics Illinois Summer Games Opening Ceremonies at Illinois State University in Normal.

The Special Olympics Illinois Lifetime Service award is given to an outstanding individual who encompasses the spirit of Special Olympics Illinois and has shown their dedication to the organization and to serving its mission and goals. Awards are given based on nominee’s interest in and support of the abilities and accomplishments of SO ILL athletes as demonstrated through significant contributions. The individual also needs to have at least 20 years of service with Special Olympics Illinois. Read More

Drake Taylor Posthumously Receives LETR Hero Award

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Beverly and Randy Taylor accept son Drake’s award from Officer Nik Jones

Drake Taylor of Dunlap has posthumously received the 2013 Special Olympics Illinois/Law Enforcement Torch Run Hero Award. Drake’s parents, Beverly and Randy Taylor, accepted the award at a reception held on June 14 before the Special Olympics Illinois Summer Games Opening Ceremonies at Illinois State University in Normal.

The Law Enforcement Torch Run Hero Award recognizes an individual involved in Special Olympics Illinois who has demonstrated courage, noble qualities and has been a model for others. This award exemplifies what a hero is, in the eyes of a Law Enforcement officer. Read More

Devines Named Family of the Year

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Bill, Nikki, Madison and CJ Devine receive their award with Attorney General Lisa Madigan

Bill, Nikki, Madison and CJ Devine of Tinley Park have been named 2013 Special Olympics Illinois Outstanding Family of the Year. They were honored at a reception held on June 14 before the Special Olympics Illinois Summer Games Opening Ceremonies at Illinois State University in Normal.

The Outstanding Family Award recognizes a family with a Special Olympics athlete that has made unique and lasting contributions not only benefiting their athletes but also every aspect of the Special Olympics Illinois program.

Bill Devine is an officer with the Tinley Park Police Department and has been involved with Special Olympics and the Illinois Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) for 16 years.  Bill is a Leg Leader for the Torch Run and sits on the State Torch Run Committee helping to put on the many statewide Torch Run events. Read More

Texas Roadhouse Torch Run Benefit Lunch Set for July 26

TXRH-LogoTexas Roadhouse restaurants will be teaming up with local law enforcement officers on Friday, July 26, for a Benefit Lunch to support Special Olympics Illinois.

Local officers will serve a “free” lunch of a limited menu from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.  This exclusive lunch includes a pulled pork sandwich, corn, freshly baked bread with honey-cinnamon butter and a non-alcoholic beverage.

TXRH_EPeoriaDiners are simply asked to leave a donation at their table for their meal, with 100 percent of the proceeds benefiting Special Olympics Illinois!  This Texas Roadhouse Benefit Lunch is part of the Law Enforcement Torch Run, which is the largest year-round fundraising vehicle benefiting Special Olympics Illinois.

All 11 Texas Roadhouse locations in Illinois will be participating, which includes: Bradley, Champaign, Decatur, East Peoria, Joliet, Naperville, Quincy, Rockford, Shiloh (O’Fallon), Springfield and Tinley Park.  Be sure to stop by the location nearest you to enjoy a great meal for a great cause!

Flame of Hope Travels the State During Annual Torch Run

From the various legs and routes throughout the state to the Final Leg and Opening Ceremonies, the Flame of Hope again burned brightly this year!

FL2013-webApproximately 100 law enforcement personnel participated in this year’s Final Leg, which is the culmination of all Torch Run Legs from across Illinois.  This 2.5 mile run ended at the Special Olympics Illinois VIP Reception, where Torch Runners received a standing ovation for their efforts.  State Torch Run Director Eric Smith and Assistant Torch Run Director Tom Reasoner presented Special Olympics Illinois with a check for the estimated 2013 year-end fundraising total of this statewide effort – for the first time, $3 million is expected to be raised by the Illinois Law Enforcement Torch Run!

After the reception, this group carried the torch into a packed Hancock Stadium, where the Flame of Hope was passed to Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan from Chris Soderlund of the Crestwood Police Department (last year’s top Torch Run fundraising department).  The flame, which was then presented from athlete-to-athlete, ultimately ignited the cauldron to officially open Summer Games.

To all law enforcement in Illinois, thank you for giving your time to raise awareness for Special Olympics Illinois athletes and their accomplishments! 

Pull a Plane at O’Hare Airport this September!

The 5th annual Law Enforcement Torch Run® Plane Pull at O’Hare International Airport is set for Saturday, Sept. 21.  Teams of 20 will test their muscle and play tug-of-war with a UPS Airbus A300 weighing more than 99 tons!

2012PlanePull-DT7234-webLaw enforcement officers and fire departments, along with private companies, high schools, colleges, fraternal groups and teams of family and friends are all welcome to try pulling the plane in record time to win valuable prizes and official bragging rights!  View this Team Captain Guide for more information on getting your group started.

Each team is required to raise $1,000 to participate (that’s only $50 per team member for a group of 20).  Each participant will receive an official Plane Pull T-shirt, with all event proceeds benefiting the athletes of Special Olympics Illinois.

Interested in pulling for Special Olympics Illinois?  Visit www.illinoisplanepull.com for additional information or to register your team.

Dunkin’ Donuts Cop on Rooftop Event a Huge Success

Police officers throughout Illinois staked out Dunkin’ Donuts rooftops on May 31 to heighten awareness and raise donations for the Law Enforcement Torch Run® to benefit Special Olympics Illinois.

Peoria-Pekin PD-webIt was a record-breaking year for the Cop on Rooftop event, with officers participating at 150 locations in Illinois and raising more than $310,000 – a first in both the number of locations and money raised!  The Bloomington Police Department was once again the top fundraising department, collecting more than $9,300 during their event the week of the State Summer Games.

Everyone who visited a participating Dunkin’ Donuts store and made a donation to the Torch Run received a free donut.  Individuals who donated at least $10 also received an Illinois Law Enforcement Torch Run travel mug and coupon for free coffee.

2013 marked the 11th anniversary of this great partnership between Dunkin’ Donuts and the Illinois Law Enforcement Torch Run.  The Cop on Rooftop event has been a great success since its inception, raising more than $1.6 million for the athletes of Special Olympics Illinois!

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Interior Investments Receives Chairman’s Award

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Representatives of Interior Investments receive their award with Ashley Cain and Dave Breen

Interior Investments of Lincolnshire has received 2013 Special Olympics Illinois’ Chairman’s Award. Interior Investments’ owner Mike Greenberg accepted the award at a reception held on June 14 before the Special Olympics Illinois Summer Games Opening Ceremonies at Illinois State University in Normal.

The Special Olympics Illinois Chairman’s Award recognizes an outstanding donor or sponsor who has contributed significantly to Special Olympics Illinois through in-kind, volunteer and/or monetary support.

Interior Investments is an office furniture distributor that offers design and support services.  What began as a whimsical “what if?” has evolved into a major industry event – planned, managed and hosted by Interior Investments.  The Annual Office Chair Hockey Tournament is held each year in the beautiful Grand Ballroom at Navy Pier in Chicago.  This one-of-a-kind event sells out every year. Read More

Glenwood High School Name Facility of the Year

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Representatives of Glenwood High School receive their award with Ashley Cain and Dave Breen

Glenwood High School has been named 2013 Special Olympics Illinois Outstanding Facility of the Year. Dave Murphy, Director of Facilities and Grounds for Ball-Chatham School District #5, accepted the award on behalf of the school at a reception held on June 14 before the Special Olympics Illinois Summer Games Opening Ceremonies at Illinois State University in Normal.

The Outstanding Facility Award recognizes a facility that offers benefits to the local Area program and/or state program in order to help promote the quality of competition provided for the Special Olympics Illinois athletes.

Glenwood High School has generously hosted the Special Olympics Illinois Sangamon/Area 17 Spring Games at their beautiful facility for several years at no expense to Special Olympics Illinois.  Athletic Director Dan Rourke and Director of Buildings and Grounds Jim Lovelace provide everything needed for the games from access to the facility to athletic equipment to scores of volunteers. Read More

Chicago Sun-Times Media Group Named Media of the Year

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Jim Kirk receives The Chicago Sun-Times Group award, with Ashley Cain and Dave Breen

The Chicago Sun-Times Media Group has been named 2013 Special Olympics Illinois Outstanding Media of the Year. Jim Kirk, Editor-in-Chief, accepted the award at a reception held on June 14 before the Special Olympics Illinois Summer Games Opening Ceremonies at Illinois State University in Normal.

The Outstanding Media Award recognizes an individual or organization that has helped communicate and/or promote Special Olympics Illinois and the achievements of its athletes, coaches and volunteers locally, Area-or statewide through news features and/or other presentations.

The Chicago Sun-Times has been a supporter of Special Olympics Illinois for many years. It has been the print sponsor for the Windy City Rubber Ducky Derby – an event that raises hundreds of thousands of dollars for Special Olympics Illinois – since the event was established in 2006. Each year, the Sun-Times has run a series of color ads to promote the Ducky Derby in the Chicago  Sun-Times, as well as in the Sun-Times Media Group publications that cover surrounding suburbs (Naperville Sun, Joliet Herald-News, Southtown Star, Pioneer Press and Lake County News-Sun). The Sun-Times has also given exposure to the Ducky Derby on its website and encouraged employees to get involved by adopting ducks for Special Olympics Illinois. Read More

Include Special Olympics Illinois in Your Estate Plans

I wish I could do more …

We often hear that phrase from fans of Special Olympics Illinois. Whether they are parents or grandparents of a Special Olympics athlete—or   people who simply want to help others—the feeling is the same.  And so is the answer!

Your signature can provide the Special Olympics experience to adults and children with intellectual disabilities for many years to come.

How?  By including Special Olympics Illinois in your estate plans.

It’s easy to make Special Olympics Illinois the beneficiary of a life insurance policy or Individual Retirement Account.

You could also make an outright bequest in your will, designating a specific dollar amount or a percentage of your estate in support of our mission to create a better life for people with intellectual disabilities.

If you have a trust, you can make arrangements now so that whatever funds remain in the trust will go to Special Olympics Illinois as part of your estate.

You can do more – you can leave a legacy that will change the world.

Don’t just wish you could do it.  Do it now!

It’s as easy as signing your name.

For more information, please contact Sheila Devine at 630-942-5616.

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