Series Three: Community Spotlight on Special Olympics Illinois

Throughout the month, we have been spotlighting athletes who have had the opportunity to participate in Special Olympics. In our first two series, we met Cassie Wohlhart, an 11-year Special Olympics Athlete and track star, and Emma Ross, a gymnast and swimmer.  In this third and final series, we meet basketball player Robert Atchison and his father and basketball coach, Bob Atchison.

Special Olympics Illinois Mission:

Provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.

Special Olympics Illinois Reach:

  • 21,349 athletes (children and adults) with intellectual disabilities
  • 12,966 Young Athletes ages 2-7 with and without intellectual disabilities
  • 40,000 volunteers and coaches
  • 170 competitions each year
  • 19 Olympic-type sports
  • Programs in 18 Areas, each coordinated by an Area Director and a volunteer committee
  • Dynamic sports and corporate partnerships

Meet Robert James Atchison!

  • Years with Special Olympics IL: 9
  • Sports: Basketball, Floor Hockey, Baseball, & Football
  • Region: Western DuPage County

Robert is 17 years old and a junior at Glenbard South High School. Many years ago, Robert had the opportunity to attend a Chicago Bulls/Western DuPage Special Recreation Association (WDSRA) basketball skills session. Robert was hooked, his parents signed him up for the WDSRA Special Olympics basketball team, and he has been playing ever since.

When asked about his favorite memories with Special Olympics, Robert replied: “Some of the things that I enjoy the most are playing in basketball games and passing the ball to my teammates. I also really like the post-season pizza party!”

Robert has earned several medals in his 9 years with SOIL. “I hang them in my room; I also wear them when I help sell tickets to an annual concert event that raises money for Special Olympics and to the concert itself.”

In addition to playing sports, Robert enjoys watching sports, spending time with his grandma, and going to University of Iowa home football games with his dad. He also plays the drums!

Meet Coach Bob Atchison!

Robert’s father, Bob, coached Special Olympics youth basketball through WDSRA for 5 years. When Robert first started playing basketball for WDSRA, Bob volunteered to help the coaches during practice. After two of the coaches moved on, Bob and another one of the fathers took on the coaching role together.

“The most fulfilling aspect was seeing the kids have fun and feel a sense of accomplishment.  It was simply joyous to see the smile on a young athlete’s face (and their parents’ too) after making a basket during a game, with the crowd cheering them on”, recalls Bob.

As we close our series on Special Olympics Athletes, we’d like to thank the families for sharing some of your unforgettable moments and allowing us to hear first-hand accounts of the numerous benefits of participation in Special Olympics, an organization with which MAKE is passionate.

How to get involved with SOIL: 

Join us at the Special Olympics Illinois for the 2013 Inspire Greatness Gala

Saturday, October 26 at 6:00 p.m.
The Four Seasons Hotel Chicago

For more information and other ways to get involved, visit