Special Olympics

Special Olympics

Lauren Shelton, Reporter

     Every year, kids and adults get together with their families to participate in one of Illinois’ biggest events, the Special Olympics. The nonprofit organization is the World’s largest sports organization for children, teens, and adults with intellectual disabilities. There are leagues offered for almost every sport and the organization provides year-round training and competitions.

     This year, the annual games were held on May 2 at Harlem High School. The athletes were from all over the northern Illinois region, including Boone, Carroll, DeKalb, Whiteside, Winnebago, Lee and Ogle Counties.

     In order for all of the games to run smoothly, the Special Olympics requires a massive number of volunteers. The volunteers help within the different events, around 19 of them, as well as setting all of the equipment up and spending time with the competitors.

     “I thought it was a lot of fun to have the opportunity to spend time with all of the participants. It is something that I would definitely want to do again next year,” said Sofi Zeman (‘19).

     The morning starts off with an Opening Ceremony parade and all of the athletes recite an oath, while the running of a torch and cauldron takes place. The oath states, “Let me win.  But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

     “This was my second year volunteering and I loved it. It was nice being able to help with the soccer games at Special Olympics. I would do it again for sure,” said Maya Moucharrafie (‘19).

     The winners in each competition are awarded gold, silver, and bronze medals. The athletes who win a gold medal automatically qualify themselves to compete at the Special Olympics Illinois State Summer Games. The Summer Games take place the weekend of June 12 at Illinois State University and Illinois Wesleyan University. Even more volunteers will be needed for that competition.

     “We rely on volunteers to help run every aspect…but even more importantly, the athletes look forward to the friendship and encouragement they receive from the volunteers,” stated the Special Olympics director, Debbie Kelly.

     There are many ways someone can get involved and help with the organization. One way is to join a Unified Sports Team, become a coach or register to be an official.

     If someone is interested in becoming an athlete for the Special Olympics organization, the ages range from 2 and on. It is never too late to get in touch with a league and start playing.