Scarlet Hawks Help Special Olympics Athletes Shoot for the Stars



By Luke Stanczyk
Scarlet Hawks Help Special Olympics Athletes Shoot for the Stars

The special bond between the Illinois Tech Athletics Department and Special Olympics Chicago only continues to grow stronger. 

Illinois Tech and its Student-Athlete Advisory Committee organized and hosted a high school basketball tournament for Special Olympics Chicago in January at Keating Sports Center, with 366 competitors from 26 Chicago-area schools and delegations participating in the three-day event. 

“The opportunity to work with the Special Olympics is such a fulfilling and positive experience,” says Illinois Tech men’s and women’s tennis coach Erik Scanlan, who is also the SAAC adviser. “I am very grateful to be a part of this event and to work for a department that promotes this type of service and energy within our community.”

More than 50 student-athletes representing each of Illinois Tech’s 17 varsity athletic teams volunteered at this year’s tournament—the highest total in the event’s history. And the competitors were not the only ones who enjoyed themselves, as many of Illinois Tech’s student-athletes see the event as one of the highlights of the year.

“The Special Olympics basketball tournament is always a very fulfilling event,” says fourth-year women’s soccer player Olivia Kochanek, the SAAC’s events and projects committee head. “This year, I was helping at the scorer’s table, cheering on the athletes, and giving high-fives to those coming off the court. To be able to witness their excitement and sense of accomplishment made me so happy and so grateful to be a part of the week. Special Olympics is a great event, and I’m so glad Illinois Tech hosts it.”

The success of this year’s tournament has gotten both Special Olympics Chicago and Illinois Tech excited about the future of the annual event. 

“I am absolutely astounded at how terrific the entire team is at Illinois Tech,” says Dani Chitwood, an assistant director at Special Olympics Illinois. “From working with [Assistant Athletic Director for Facilities and Compliance] Usha Gilmore in the fall to secure the facility, to the excellent customer service that she, Erik Scanlan, Olivia Kochanek, and the entire athletic squad provides us, it has become a no-brainer to request this facility to host year after year. The athletes of Special Olympics Chicago are so excited to showcase their talent at Illinois Tech and love the excitement and respect the volunteers show toward them. Illinois Tech has truly become a part of the Special Olympics family.”

Adds Scanlan, “Events like this strengthen our community, our friends, and our department as well. I look forward to continuing our work with the Special Olympics for years to come.”