Thirty years of Ath­letic Suc­cess

Mike McLaugh­lin is a cham­pion.

Chicago Sun-Times - - CUBS BEAT -

A Spe­cial Olympics ath­lete for more than 30 years, McLaugh­lin has com­peted — and medaled — in swim­ming, track and field, bas­ket­ball, bowl­ing, soft­ball, ten­nis, vol­ley­ball, cross-coun­try ski­ing and snow­shoe­ing over his ath­letic ca­reer — and he has no plans to slow down. McLaugh­lin grew up in Elmhurst and grad­u­ated from York High School, where he quickly de­vel­oped a love of sports. “I like be­ing com­pet­i­tive,” he says, “and I like be­ing out­doors with my team­mates.” Over the last three decades, his par­tic­i­pa­tion on Spe­cial Olympics teams has taken him to count­less state tour­na­ments, in­clud­ing an im­pres­sive run with his bas­ket­ball team last win­ter, and even to Alaska to com­pete in cross-coun­try ski­ing in the late 90s. And when asked how many medals he’s col­lected, he said, “Oh, a lot. It’s im­pos­si­ble to count.” This sum­mer, he’s play­ing bocce — try­ing his hand at a new sport that, up un­til re­cently, he had never even heard of. As he learns a new game and con­nects with a new team, he’s tak­ing his own ad­vice that he of­fers younger Spe­cial Olympics ath­letes: “You can’t get dis­cour­aged. You just have to stick with it. You have to work hard. It takes time.” “Mike is an amaz­ing guy,” said Spe­cial Olympics Illi­nois Pres­i­dent and CEO Dave Breen. “He par­tic­i­pates in so many sports and he never lets any­thing get in his way. He has one of the best at­ti­tudes I’ve ever seen. He gets up ev­ery day, with all the ob­sta­cles and chal­lenges he might face, and he never com­plains.” “We should do ev­ery­thing we can to share Mike’s at­ti­tude, courage and de­ter­mi­na­tion. It changes peo­ple. It’s changed me.” “He has so much pos­i­tiv­ity — so much en­ergy,” added Mark Cuevas, Spe­cial Olympics spokesper­son and re­cent con­tes­tant on the hit show, Love is Blind. “I’m usu­ally the en­er­getic per­son in the room, so when I see some­one else who is so happy, it makes me feel happy, too.” In ad­di­tion to his many ath­letic pur­suits, McLaugh­lin works at Jewel in Elmhurst — a job he’s held for 18 years where, these days, his work is more im­por­tant than ever. “I’m an es­sen­tial worker,” he says. A life­long Chicagoan, he’s also a fan of coun­try mu­sic, Por­tillo’s and the Cubs. And this sum­mer, Mike McLaugh­lin has a new ti­tle: Spe­cial Olympics Illi­nois’ Ducky Derby Am­bas­sador. The Chicago Duck Derby is a sig­na­ture an­nual fundraiser ben­e­fit­ing Spe­cial Olympics Illi­nois, send­ing thou­sands of rub­ber ducks in a race down the Chicago river. And while this year’s fes­tiv­i­ties on Au­gust 6 are vir­tual, it will still be a big cel­e­bra­tion. “It’s our 15th year, and we are hop­ing to sell 60,000 ducks,” said Breen. Chicagoans can pur­chase in­di­vid­ual ducks for $5, or se­lect packs of ducks for more chances to win great prizes, in­clud­ing a new car, $2,500, Black­hawks tick­ets and more. “The Duck Derby is more than an event — it’s an op­por­tu­nity for ev­ery­one to come to­gether to pitch in,” Cuevas added. “The $5 you give isn’t just for a duck, it’s to build aware­ness. You’re in­vest­ing in the peo­ple putting in the hard work to make this keep go­ing; to make sure these ath­letes can do what they love to do.” In ad­di­tion to serv­ing more than 23,000 ath­letes with in­tel­lec­tual dis­abil­i­ties and nearly 20,000 Young Ath­letes ages 2-7 with and without in­tel­lec­tual dis­abil­i­ties in Illi­nois, Spe­cial Olympics is build­ing re­la­tion­ships with Chicago Pub­lic Schools and city col­leges to ex­pand their foot­print and serve even more ath­letes like Mike McLaugh­lin.

You can’t get dis­cour­aged. You just have to stick with it. You have to work hard. It takes time.

“I of­ten hear that Spe­cial Olympics ath­letes are cham­pi­ons,” McLaugh­lin said. “That’s a very nice com­pli­ment, but I re­ally think that it is the staff, vol­un­teer and donors who are the cham­pi­ons. Noth­ing can hap­pen without in­volve­ment from vol­un­teers and donors.” Visit chicago­duck­y­ to learn more about Spe­cial Olympics Illi­nois, the Chicago Ducky Derby on Au­gust 6 and how you can pur­chase ducks to sup­port ath­letes like Mike McLaugh­lin. adno=STM0001109­39401

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