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Fifty years ago this July, Special Olympics was born in Chicago at Soldier Field. In 1958, Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke was a 23-year-old physical instructor at West Pullman Park when she came up with the then-extraordinary idea to gather children with disabilities and help them compete in a track meet and additional sport competitions. 

Justice Burke worked with Chicago Park District employees that historic summer to bring together 1,000 athletes from 26 states and Canada. By competing in track and field, floor hockey, swimming and more, those trailblazing athletes challenged stereotypes, broke boundaries and sparked a global community of more than 4.7 million athletes in 169 countries who have found their spirit within and through this incredible network. 

Today, the Chicago Park District provides more than 53 Special Olympics Competitions annually, along with more than a dozen camps and leagues for the athletes to train. The Chicago Park District staff, coaches and volunteers help to make ours the largest Special Olympics program run by any public park district in the country. 

This summer, July 17-21, Chicago will again host athletes from around the world to celebrate the 50th anniversary. All Chicagoans are invited to attend this historic moment.

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