7 In Your Neighborhood: Special Olympics in full swing

May 12, 2012 8:59:30 PM PDT
It's as much about athletic ability as it is about camaraderie. The 44th annual Special Olympics are in full swing.

Let the games begin. The race to the finish line is a tough one for athletes competing in Chicago's Special Olympics, but the motivation is familiar.

"To win and bring the gold home," said special athlete Argie Burks.

As their Olympic torch burns trackside, the athletes know the stakes are high.

"If they win a gold (medal) in any of their events, they have the opportunity to advance to the state games," said Chicago Park District's Gerry Henaghan. "From there, they have the opportunity to either be nominated for either national competition which happens every four years or to be part of world games."

High five between runners but the games are not all about competition. This is also a chance to learn teamwork and build self-esteem.

"The reason why I keep coming back to Special Olympics is not only do I get the knowledge of competing in events, but I get to socialize and intermingle with the other athletes," said 36-year-old Marcel Smith.

"I tell them don't get frustrated if you fall or you lose, you're still winners," said 18-year-old Brandon Logan.

Games are adjusted for all ages and abilities and the program is always growing.

"We do 43 events here in the City of Chicago," Henaghan said. "Our program is the largest program in the country. We do everything from track and field to alpine skiing. It's all about everyone's success."

This week was the kick-off to an entire season of games. Competitions will go throughout the summer and will be located in various parks throughout the city.

Special Olympics Illinois

Chicago Park District


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