The first International Summer Games festival held by the Special Olympics movement for challenged athletes was celebrated in Chicago in 1968. Nearly 1,000 athletes, from twenty-six U.S. states, participated in these first Games. Over the past 50 years, the movement has radiated outwards from the South Side’s Soldier Field and now encompasses organizers in 172 countries and territories around the world. The International Olympic Committee (IOC), which rarely grants out the use of its intellectual property to any other body, allows the Special Olympics to share the Olympic name and torch symbol.

The Special Olympics were founded in Illinois’ sesquicentennial year of 1968. On Friday, March 2, Special Olympics officials joined fundraisers and well-wishers for the groundbreaking ceremony of the “Eternal Flame of Hope.” The 30-foot sculptural installation, to be located on the lakefront at Chicago’s Soldier Field, will celebrate the heritage of these Games and point towards further Special Olympics growth over the next half-century.
Following the violent attack in Parkland Florida last month, it has become clear it could have been prevented had the school had the ability to petition the court for protection. Recognizing this reality, State Representative Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) and State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago) began crafting bipartisan legislation to address a similar gap in Illinois law. Along with the help of Lake County Circuit Court Judge Joseph Salvi, Senate Bill 3411 (same as House Bill 5829) would allow a school, place of worship or workplace to seek protection.

“Even though we already have specific rules in place to keep firearms out of the hands of someone who may be suffering from a potentially dangerous mental health problem or who has exhibited signs of violent behavior, a gap currently exists in our law. This legislation helps us close that gap and improve public safety,” said Rep. Wheeler. “I want to thank Senator Raoul for carrying this legislation in the Senate, as well as Lake County Judge Joseph Savli for helping us find a solution to address this issue.”

Specifically, Senate Bill 3411 updates Illinois’ Stalking No Contact Order to allow a school, church or workplace to petition the court if they have a legitimate concern that a person poses a danger. Current law only allows an individual to petition the court in this way. This will allow a judge to temporarily restrict access to firearms of someone who is deemed a danger and allow for a mental health evaluation. Such a law could have prevented the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, as the shooter was expelled from the school for violent behavior.
The rating was bestowed by “Site Selection” Magazine, a CEO-oriented periodical and database that compiles information on the relative activities of U.S. locations for business relocation and job growth. Illinois ranked third in the number of new and expanded facilities per capita tracked by the periodical database, in a ranking called the “Governor’s Cup” by the magazine. 

Commentators said Illinois was honored for its transportation infrastructure and relatively affordable real estate. More than 400 new and expanded facilities were tracked moving to or expanding in greater Chicago, exclusive of Lake County, in the 2017 Governor’s Cup rankings. This benchmark, which made greater Chicago the #1 U.S. metropolitan area tracked by “Site Selection” with a population of 1 million or more, powered Illinois’ overall standings. However, Illinois’ strength was not limited to greater Chicago. Three Illinois areas defined by the U.S. Census Bureau as “micropolitan areas,” population centers in predominantly rural environments with a population between 10,000 and 50,000, also scored highly. Strong Illinois micropolitan areas were Ottawa-Peru, Effingham, and Rochelle. All three regions are places where transcontinental railroad service comes together with two or more U.S. Interstate highways.
The U.S. commemorative postage stamp had its “First Day of Issue” on Monday, March 5. Sold for 50 cents, the stamp shares the white, yellow, blue, and green colors of the Illinois state flag and the words “Illinois 1818.” It features an outline map of Illinois with the sun rising from the State’s southern tip. Twenty stars in the stamp’s corners reflect the U.S. states that entered the union before 1818, with the rising sun of Illinois being the twenty-first star of the National Union.
As part of Illinois' 200 year birthday celebrations, the Office of the Illinois State Treasurer has announced the Bicentennial Coin Contest. The contest encourages individuals to submit a design for the coin that will be created and distributed to commemorate the Illinois Bicentennial.

The treasurer’s office will accept electronic submissions for the Bicentennial Coin Contest from Illinois residents. Each design should depict an aspect of Illinois or Illinois history. One entry, per contestant, can be submitted now through May 1, 2018 at The winning design will be used for the commemorative bicentennial coin. To pre-order a commemorative bicentennial coin, visit and click on the “medallion pre-sale” graphic.

The public will have an online opportunity to vote on the top five designs in June. A final winner will be announced on June 18, 2018.
The benchmark news came from Empower Illinois, one of the nonprofit entities overseeing implementation of the Illinois tax credit scholarship program created by the Illinois General Assembly in 2017. Under this new tax credit, Illinois income taxpayers are authorized to donate moneys to an approved scholarship clearinghouse. The moneys will be used to pay for scholarships to be awarded to enable children to attend fee-charging schools. Scholarships that will cover 50 to 100 percent of a student’s tuition and school-related expenses will be awarded to children from income-eligible households.

Empower Illinois’ announcement followed the nonprofit’s previous announcement of a glitch on January 31. When the Empower office first tried to roll out their online scholarship application window, so many applications were submitted that the website broke down. The 33,000 valid applications submitted in the second process, which generated totals announced on Wednesday, February 28, reflect emergency repairs made to the application website. Empower Illinois reported receiving $45 million in pledged donations from Illinois taxpayers. The taxpayers will receive individual income tax credits to cover up to 80 percent of the cost of their donations. Applicant households who do not get into the program this year may choose to reapply again in early 2019.
Lieutenant Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti, Deputy Governor Leslie Munger, and leaders from the Illinois Math and Science Academy have launched the three-year Illinois Bicentennial STEM Fusion Campaign. The Campaign will generate enhanced teacher professional development opportunities and student STEM enrichment programs to participants in 25 selected schools across the State. 

The STEM Fusion Campaign pays tribute to Illinois’ heritage in mathematics education. One of the first bills passed by the Illinois General Assembly in 1818 was a measure to set aside a set percentage of the new state’s frontier land as seed money for a public school system to teach English and math. One-thirty-sixth of the new state’s unsettled farmland was set aside for this purpose. Some Illinoisans may still remember hearing that a square mile near their home was once a “school section.”
Looking for a fun community project to join? SWALCO's Reuse-A-Shoe program might be the perfect fit for your organization.

Every year, across the globe, millions of pairs of shoes end up in landfills or disposed of in some way, creating a lot of waste. It is estimated that 85% or more of these unwanted items end up in our landfills, which here in the U.S. and around the world, are filling up fast. 

No matter what age we are, most of us have at least a few pairs or more of unwanted shoes hanging out in our closets. Some may be shoes we just don’t wear, shoes we or family members have outgrown, or those that have gotten a little worn around the edges. Much of what we consider unwanted waste can actually be recycled or repurposed. 
The Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce presents the James Tyree Emerging Business Leadership Award each year to an entrepreneur or small business in the Chicago region that has demonstrated growth and civic/philanthropic values. The winner of the Tyree Award receives a $50,000 cash prize, courtesy of Mesirow Financial and CIBC, plus business consulting services from the Chicagoland Chamber. 

2018 is the 7th year of the Tyree Award. The winner will be announced during the Chicagoland Chamber's 114th Annual Meeting on June 5, 2018. 

The Tyree Award application process runs through March 25th.

Click here for to see award criteria and to apply.