News Release Article Detail

SOFF Celebrates 30 Years With More Than 700 Athletes, 1,800 Volunteers

September 24, 2013 – More than 700 Special Olympian Athletes from East Central Illinois were treated to a day of fun and games on Saturday, Sept. 21, at the 30th annual Special Olympics Family Festival on the grounds of Lake Land College. Some 1,800 volunteers registered for the event. 

At the beginning of the day, Special Olympian Athletes were paired with a “Friend-For-A-Day,” a volunteer who escorted them through the “tent city” housing games and activities. The day was highlighted by a performance by Elvis tribute artist, Elvis Himselvis. In addition to the many non-competitive games and activities, the Athletes and their Friends-For-A-Day also enjoyed a parade, dancing, hay rides, face painting, Karaoke and many other activities.

Colorful cartoon characters and reigning pageant queens highlighted the parade and posed for pictures with Athletes throughout the day. 

Each Athlete left the event with a SOFF 2013 medal, along with some special memories. “Saturday was an amazing day to celebrate 30 years of creating memories at the Special Olympics Family Festival. SOFF is truly a great day for our Athletes and our volunteers. A special thank you goes out to the community for supporting this event since 1984, and to our volunteers who come back year after year to help out,” said Dawn Frost, 2013 SOFF Chairperson. “We couldn’t do this without the continued support of the community.”

While many volunteers are employees of Consolidated Communications, hundreds of volunteers from Eastern Illinois University, Lake Land College, area high schools, civic organizations, local businesses and individual members of the surrounding communities support the event each year and their help is greatly appreciated. The event is organized by Consolidated Communications, First Mid-Illinois Bank and Trust and Sarah Bush Lincoln Health System.

The first SOFF event saw approximately 225 Olympian Athletes from Area 9 and more than 750 volunteers. Mattoon resident Midge McDowell, who was approached by Consolidated Communications when she served as Special Olympics Illinois Area 9 director and still serves as an advisor to the committee, wasn’t sure how many years the festival would continue. Initially she thought it may be a one-time event or maybe last a few years. “Who would have ever thought we’d be celebrating 30 years?” she said.  She credits the support from Dick Lumpkin and Consolidated Communications employees with continuing the tradition.

Kimberly Abell, Special Olympics Illinois Area 9 Director said SOFF is an event the Athletes look forward to. “I believe the Athletes look forward to this event year after year due to the lifelong friendships that they’ve made,” Abell said. “This event signifies a way for all of the Athletes to come together to celebrate their accomplishments from various competitions throughout the year.”

The festival has also grown to include athletes from other areas, including Decatur, Champaign, Springfield and Mattoon/Charleston.

Actions: E-mail