The Special Olympics give participants more than a chance to lay claim to a well-executed breaststroke or a speedily accomplished 50-yard-dash.
Longtime Special Olympics athlete Bridget Brown, the keynote speaker at a Saturday fundraising concert at , talked about the spiritual effects the games have on intellectually disabled players.
“Special Olympics raises people with disabilities up,” she told a nearly full house packed into the church sanctuary for the afternoon musical program. “My own life has changed because of Special Olympics.”
Brown talked about how she is now a public speaker, a person with Down’s Syndrome who has overcome obstacles on the way to chasing a dream. That dream, she said, was to become an athlete.
“Look at me now. I am an athlete. Dreams do come true,” she said.
Special Olympics supporters helped that happen, she said.
“I would like to express my gratitude for your compassionate hearts,” she told the audience.
Brown’s remarks preceded a concert program that included selections performed by the Elmhurst College Chamber Singers, the Elmhurst College Jazz Ensemble, the Glen Ellyn-Wheaton Chorale and The Stars of College Church, a group of disabled individuals.
Before Brown spoke, Special Olympian Dan James of Sugar Grove served as guest conductor as the ensemble from the Glen Ellyn-Wheaton Chorale sang the national anthem.
The concert was the Second Annual Concert to Benefit Special Olympics Illinois, Far West Suburban/Area 2. The statewide Special Olympics organization is divided into 18 areas; area 2 covers DuPage, Kane and Kendall counties, said Barbara DiGuido, communications director for Special Olympics Illinois.
DiGuido said the idea for the fundraiser took root with the support of Grant Vankerk, a longtime Special Olympics volunteer and member of the Glen Ellyn-Wheaton Chorale.
“It was so inspirational and well-received that they wanted to do it again,” DiGuido said.
Last year’s concert raised about $10,000 for Special Olympics, money that helped fund ribbons, medals, meals and other costs, said Amy Kaylor, manager of sports and competition for the Area 2 Special Olympics Illinois office. Kaylor said the organization hopes to match or top that amount with this year’s fundraiser.