On May 4, a beautiful spring day, 539 athletes from throughout suburban Cook County gathered to compete in the 39th annual Special Olympics Annual Track and Field Meet held at Evanston Township High School. The meet was sponsored by Special Olympics Illinois and Northwestern to Benefit Special Olympics. Gold-medal winners qualify to compete in the Special Olympics Summer Games to be held on June 13-15 at Illinois State University in Normal.
The Evanston team fielded about 25 athletes, Leonard Woodson, the City’s program manager for special recreation, told the RoundTable. The Evanston team took home 24 gold, 19 silver, and 7 bronze medals.
Mr. Woodson said about 150 Evanstonians participate in the City’s special recreation programs throughout the year, and about 250 participate in summer camp programs. Programs in basketball, swimming, track, bowling, bocce and ice skating are offered.
Ravi Randhava, co-chair of Northwestern to Benefit Special Olympics, said this was the 31st year Northwestern University has sponsored the event. He said about 300 Northwestern students volunteer throughout the year as coaches at sites in the Evanston catchments area, and that the University raises a substantial portion of the necessary funds for the event. About 120 NU students volunteered at the May 4 meet.
Mr. Randhava said ETHS and the Justin Wynn Leadership Academy have been great partners and that the Kiwanis Club donated 750 lunches and Whole Foods made donations to the event.
Special Olympics Area Director Katie Grisham said the games could not go on without terrific volunteer support. “We rely on volunteers to help run every aspect of the Spring Games. But even more importantly, the athletes look forward to the friendship and encouragement they receive from the volunteers.”