This article was published in Bar Briefs, the monthly journal of the Kane County Bar Association in December, 2004
The return of the modern Olympic Games to Athens this summer provided us with the opportunity to view some of the sites and experience some of the inspiration of the city widely regarded as the fountainhead of Western civilization. In dozens of less publicized events occurring all across America this fall, the power of an idea born over 2,500 years ago still inspires special young athletes and their audiences. On October 9 at the Metro Centre in Rockford, members of the U.S. men's and women's Olympic gymnastics teams thrilled audiences with a sampling of their world-famous routines, as well as unique demonstrations not broadcast on television from Greece.
After Carly Patterson, Mohini Bhardwaj, Courtney Kupets and other gymnasts completed their first few vignettes, the lights dimmed, and the master of ceremonies, John Macready, entered the arena floor alone. With a single spotlight shining on him, he spoke directly to the hushed crowd:
"The Olympics is not just about winning medals.
It's about doing what you love to do.
And it's also about being the best you can be
when you do what you love.
Please welcome these gymnasts from Illinois Special Olympics."
Five young boys and girls from this area and downstate seized the spotlight by marching onto the floor, along with a coach from Fox Valley Special Recreation Association. They performed routines on the parallel bars, the uneven bars, and the balance beam, plus floor exercise and rhythmic gymnastics. Members of both the men's and women's U.S. gymnastics teams spotted for the athletes. At the conclusion of their three minutes of fame, the spotters honored the athletes with special warm-up jackets to remind them of their experience.
The show continued for another 90 minutes or so. Carly performed a reprise of her medal-winning floor exercise. Jason Gatson, Brett McClure and others amazed the crowd with routines on the rings and high bar. Latin music provided the background for an exciting dance number. A number of circus-like acts brought screams of delight from thousands of spectators.
But when the show concluded, only one performance had drawn a standing ovation from all members of the house --- when the most special of the Olympians concluded their three-minute routines.
Special Olympics is an organization that sponsors athletic events for children and adults with intellectual and related developmental disabilities. Each year, participants in Illinois and other states train in a wide variety of sports, including basketball, swimming, track and field, gymnastics, power lifting, bowling, bocce ball, tennis, and many more. These events provide men, women, boys and girls who participate in Special Olympics with the chance to excel to the best of their ability. In this way, they experience the same thrill of competition and the same admiration of their peers that all athletes strive for. The competitions are held at the local and regional levels, plus annual state-wide games. The state-wide Special Olympics Illinois Summer Games are held every June on the campus of Illinois State University in Bloomington-Normal. Last year, the largest athletic event in the world occurred in Ireland --- the International Games of Special Olympics.
You can help support Special Olympics by sending contributions to Special Olympics Illinois, C/o Sandy Hutchins, Area Director, P.O. Box 897, St. Charles, IL 60174. Or you can write a check or empty your wallets when you see me passing in the hallway at the Courthouse or the Judicial Center and I will happily forward the contributions for you.