Excitement and support for the WeGo Wildcats Special Olympics basketball team continues to build as the young athletes head downstate for the State finals. Twelve of the fourteen athletes are able to make the trip thanks to the success of recent fundraisers to help offset the associated costs so as not to strain the budgets of any of the participating families.
According to Dave Hempe, an active and dedicated volunteer of the team, support from the City of West Chicago, and particularly former Mayor Michael Kwasman who was a strong supporter and inspired the restart of the program 6-7 years ago before his untimely passing, has been instrumental in the viability of the program. The annual friendly competition that takes place between the West Chicago FOP Lodge 85 and the West Chicago Professional Fire Fighters Association – IAFF Local 3970 along with the WeGo Wildcats Special Olympics Team, has come to be known as the Kwasman Klassic.
“We are all very excited and are looking forward to the first time experience for the basketball program. I never imagined this would happen when (wife) Sue and I restarted the program 6-7 years ago,” Hempe noted.
The Club, which plays its home games at Community High School in West Chicago, is coached by volunteers Dirk Gunderson and Dick Doremus. All of the athletes live in the same geographic boundaries as the High School, and most attend classes there.
The first State championship game for the WeGo Wildcats will be played at Illinois Wesleyan in Normal, Illinois on Friday, March 17, 2017 at 2:30 p.m., with a second game scheduled for Saturday at 9:30 a.m. West Chicago Mayor Ruben Pineda will be closely following the game and rooting for the home team. “I think it is awesome that our kids have earned this opportunity to compete at State. We are all so proud of them for getting to this point,” he said.
Hempe is looking forward to a big W for his team, but also knows there is a bigger picture on which to focus, “…hopefully we will play well enough to bring home a trophy. But even if we don’t, the experience will be something the athletes will remember for a long time.”