CHICAGO — The good times rolled Saturday at the Special Olympics Bocce Ball tournament in Bridgeport.
Among the competitors was Danny Bauer, who entered Saturday’s competition for his 14th year. Special Olympics Chicago started the popular tournament more than 25 years ago. Hence, the number of athletes, growing every year, and those giving their time to help.
Volunteer Frank Phillips was among those who helped with the event.
“The same families that come out here every year, just give that one day, to come out here and give to some of the greatest athletes in the city of Chicago,” Phillips said. “If not the best.”
When Phillips began his work more than 15 years ago, the tournament was more of just a friendly game.
“We started with about 15 athletes the first year we ran it,” Phillips said. “Two years ago, just before the pandemic, we had about 775 kids, athletes out here.”
Phillips said that he’s grown to love the tournament, getting hooked, as he called it, because of his daughter, Mary Jo, who was in high school at the time.
“She said, ‘Dad, I want to do this for community service,” Phillips said. “‘Let’s go out and help out,’ and I’ve continued ever since then.”
Phillips, who lost his daughter 11 years ago, has continued his work in her honor.
“It was very special to her, and it was very dear to her heart and she was always looking to help people out and you know what? It’s just one of those things you just got to come out and experience,” Phillips said.
It’s an experience that can mean something different to anyone who attended. For Bauer, the day meant becoming a gold medalist and winning a trip to the state summer games next year.
“How does it feel?” WGN asked.
“Good. Real good,” Bauer said. “Real good.”