By Anne Eickstadt


Meggan Hill McQueeney, President/COO for BraveHearts, opens the 2021 Fall Special Olympics at the Bergmann Center in Poplar Grove. The Special Olympics torch is proudly carried by Evan McKay of the Bravehearts Therapeutic Riding Team.

More than 400 Special Olympics Illinois athletes and 28 Unified Partners competed in the 2021 Fall Games on Saturday, Oct. 23 and Sunday, Oct. 24. Fall Games is one of 11 state sports competitions in Illinois. Athletes competed in either equestrian, located at Bergmann Center in Poplar Grove or volleyball, located at Harlem High School in Machesney Park. 

At the Bergmann Center, Nate Henry, Director of State Championships, said, “We’re back at it at about 50 percent participation for the equestrian event. Going forward, events are looking up. The athletes have been working really hard. It’s a slow slog back.

“This is one of the events that we look forward to most. Usually we have held the opening event on Friday before the competitions at the Harlem High School. We have held a banquet for the volleyball and equestrian athletes and their Unified partners and held the ceremony there. We were disappointed to be unable to do that for both events this year but we are delighted to hold it here at the Bergmann Center today.

“We could not allow spectators for volleyball this year, Harlem High School has too many entrances for us to manage. However, Special Olympics Illinois provided live streaming so family and friends didn’t miss any of the competitive action. With only one entrance at the Bergmann Center, we can allow spectators for the equestrian competitions.

“I would like to thank Judge Allison Oseid (this is her first year with us). She has been amazingly accommodating. Everything we need, she has been here for us. A big thank you to Bravehearts staff and all the volunteers. They are the most accommodating staff that I work with. They are fantastic.

“We are really happy to be back. Next year we anticipate being back to 100 percent participation.”

The Special Olympics Volleyball competition was held at Harlem High School in Machesney Park on Saturday, Oct. 23 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 24 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The Equestrian competition was held at BraveHearts at the Bergmann Centre in Poplar Grove on Saturday, Oct. 23 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

About Special Olympics Illinois

Special Olympics Illinois is a not-for-profit sports organization offering year-round training and competition in 18 sports for more than 23,100 athletes with intellectual disabilities and over 13,000 Young Athletes ages 2-7 with and without intellectual disabilities. It strives to be a global leader in shaping a culture where people with and without intellectual disabilities are fully integrated into the community by providing year round opportunities in competitive sports, health education, leadership and personal development. If you are interested in being a part of Special Olympics Illinois and its vision, contact your local region, call 800-394-0562 or visit our website at Follow Special Olympics Illinois on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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