Special Olympians get special coaches


Sixth-grade volunteers support their friends


Calvin Stumpe is quite an athlete—he’s got 73 medals and 20 trophies to prove it.

He will compete in the 400-meter run, the 400-meter relay and the long jump at the April 27 Area 2 games at North Central College in Naperville. Calvin, 13, a sixth-grader at Naperville’s Scullen Middle School, is a Special Olympics veteran.

It’s his fifth year as an Special Olympian. This competition will be different, though.

“My friends will be coaching me and that sounds like fun,” says Calvin, who has Down syndrome. “With my friends coaching me, we have more in common at school.”

The peer-coaching was spearheaded by Bonnie Brock, a teacher who works with 12 special-needs students at Scullen. She sent out the call for volunteers and was overwhelmed with the response. More than 100 students signed up to coach, raise money to buy T-shirts and equipment, even to compete as partners with Special Olympians in “unified’ events.

Calvin is one of more than 19,000 Illinois Special Olympians who will compete in 17 different regional events.

Brock says she believes there are so many students willing to volunteer because of Naperville’s policy of inclusion. These students have been in class together throughout elementary school. “This is a tough age,” she says. In middle school, kids “start looking toward their peers for acceptance. To see the children accepting Calvin and the other kids is wonderful. I do attribute it to them just being together.”

Every day, she is approached by more volunteers. There are so many volunteers, in fact, that there aren’t enough athletes to coach. So Brock is encouraging some of the other students to sell raffle tickets for the fund-raiser and “more importantly, make sure the kids have the dates of the tournament, in downtown Naperville so they can spend some time and cheer us on.”

Nearly 800 athletes from DuPage, Kane, Lake and McHenry counties are expected to compete at North Central. Winners, or about 4,000 athletes, will go on to the tournament June 13-14 at Illinois State University. For information about local competitions, visit www.soill.org.

-- Cindy Richards

Kids Eat Chicago

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