Special Olympics Illinois Breaks Ground for Volunteer Training Center to Serve Volunteers from Throughout State

Jun 14, 2001, 01:00 ET from Special Olympics Illinois

    NORMAL, Ill., June 14 /PRNewswire/ -- Gov. George Ryan, State Sen. John
 Maitland and Special Olympics Illinois athletes, benefactors, key volunteers
 and board members from throughout Illinois gathered Thursday at the state
 headquarters in Normal for a ground-breaking ceremony for an expanded
 headquarters building including the Darrell and Ursula Beck Volunteer Training
 Center. The Center is scheduled to open in 2002.
     (PHOTO:  NewsCom:  http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20010613/CGW068 )
     "With Special Olympics athlete numbers expanding in Illinois to more than
 19,000, the need for more coaches and key volunteers is essential," said
 Special Olympics Illinois Board Chairman Keith Rich of the Bloomington Parks
 and Recreation Department. "This facility will enable Special Olympics
 Illinois to provide an expanded roster of training sessions on a regular basis
 in a centralized location in the state and provide support for training
 sessions held throughout the state."
     Sen. Maitland of Bloomington sponsored the Illinois Legislative Initiative
 Grant program that is providing $200,000 from the state toward the
 construction of the new volunteer training center and headquarters expansion.
     "Illinois First is not just about improving roads and buildings," Gov.
 George H. Ryan said. "It is also about improving the quality of life for
 Illinois citizens. I am happy that Senator Maitland, through Illinois First,
 is going to help Special Olympics Illinois."
     "This very special project is one of Sen. Maitland's top priorities. He
 initiated funding for this project about a year ago and worked very hard to
 make it a reality," said Bev Miller, Maitland's Executive Assistant.
     Long-time Special Olympics volunteers Darrell and Ursula Beck of Decatur
 have made a challenge grant of $150,000, inviting past supporters to match
 their donation. Darrell Beck helped start the Special Olympics program in
 central Illinois in 1970 with the financial support of the Knights of
 Columbus.  "We have come full circle in the understanding of the volunteer in
 the Special Olympics movement. The training that can be offered through the
 new Volunteer Training Center will be priceless  ...  and will help us achieve
 the higher goals of the program," said Beck.
     Currently, a $2 million capital campaign is under way to raise the rest of
 the money needed to complete the project. Nearly $700,000 has already been
 committed to the project. Individuals and organizations wishing to get
 involved should contact Michael Stillwell, Director of Planned Giving, at
 Special Olympics Illinois at 1-800-394-0562.
     The Darrell and Ursula Beck Volunteer Training Center will be able to
 accommodate up to 150 people at one time. Training sessions can range from
 general education and orientation about Special Olympics, to sport-specific
 training for coaches and educators, sessions on how to manage sports
 competitions, Global Messenger training for athletes, officials training and
     "While we do volunteer training year-round throughout the state, the
 advantage of a permanent central facility is enormous," said Dave Breen,
 Special Olympics Illinois Vice President of Area Management. "It means that
 key volunteers, coaches and educators can come together from all points in the
 state and share their expertise. The result will be a better experience for
 Special Olympics athletes in Illinois," said Breen.
     The backbone of Special Olympics has been local volunteers since its
 inception in 1968 with the first Games at Soldier Field in Chicago. While
 there has been tremendous support from park districts and municipalities as
 well as agencies that serve people with mental retardation, the program could
 not survive without local volunteer efforts.
     "There are hundreds of volunteer opportunities in Special Olympics,"
 explained Doug Snyder, President and CEO of Special Olympics Illinois, "many
 of them requiring a minimal amount of training. However, we must solicit and
 nurture more key volunteers - the people who help run the 17 local Area
 programs throughout the state, as well as the coaches who work directly with
 the athletes. We can train people to be coaches or to run competitions or to
 be fund- raisers. They don't need to have past sports experience, only a
 desire to help the children and adults with mental retardation reach their
     "We have a saying," Snyder continued. "Once you volunteer for Special
 Olympics, you're hooked! When you see the athletes succeed and give a big
 smile, or a hug, or a whoop of joy, it's all worth it."
     Phase Two of the building project, including a park to pay tribute to
 athletes, volunteers and families, will be announced at a future date.
     Official Partners of Special Olympics Illinois are Cingular Wireless and
 the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics.
     Special Olympics Illinois is a not-for-profit organization offering year-
 round training and competition in 19 sports for nearly 19,000 athletes ages 8
 years and older with mental retardation or closely related developmental
 disabilities. Special Olympics programs enhance physical fitness, motor
 skills, self-confidence, social skills and encourage family support. To learn
 more about Special Olympics, call Special Olympics Illinois at 800-TEAM-ISO or
 visit the Web site at www.soill.org .
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SOURCE Special Olympics Illinois