A nationwide movement swept through the City of Chicago Friday -- one with a close connection to the Chicago Fire Soccer Club.
For the first time ever, Special Olympics is orchestrating a coast-to-coast relay of the Flame of Hope in preparation for the upcoming Special Olympics World Summer Games 2015 in Los Angeles (July 25-Aug. 2). In fact, the torch is traversing a trio of routes across the continental U.S., following Northern, Central and Southern passages, crossing through all 50 states over 46 days with the help of thousands of local torchbearers along the way.
As the Northern Route makes its way through the Midwest, Chicago Fire COO Atul Khosla -- flanked by Sparky, the Chicago Fire mascot -- was fortunate enough Friday to cover a half-mile leg of the journey that wound through McCormick Place and west along Cermak Road.
On Saturday, Special Olympics will host a Unified Relay Community Celebration at Navy Pier from 1-3 p.m., before continuing north to Wisconsin and on to Minnesota. Additionally, area residents wishing to support Special Olympics in a direct manner can attend this weekend's Special Olympics Illinois Summer Games at Illinois State University in Normal and Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington. Competition began Friday and continues Saturday (7:30 a.m.-6 p.m.) through Sunday (7:30 a.m.-Noon).
The Chicago Fire and Chicago Fire Foundation have long partnered with Special Olympics for initiatives throughout the area, but AK's involvement in the inaugural Unified Relay carried a bit of extra significance thanks to the ongoing Chicago Fire Unified Soccer Team initiative. The team, which pairs teens with and without intellectual disabilities, is part of a cornerstone program for Special Olympics as the organization seeks to break down stereotypes and foster fun, empowering athletic settings. The Fire's Unified Soccer Team is currently in training for an August match in Portland that coincides with the Chicago Fire First Team's road match against the Portland Timbers.
For more on the Special Olympics Unified Relay and to follow its journey, visit UnifiedRelay.org.