Annual walk/run in Round Lake area truly is something special
By Judy Masterson email@example.com September 8, 2013 4:12PM
Mark Peters, 20, of Round Lake Beach, rolls through the start of the 5K Run/Walk fundraiser for the Special Olympics held Sunday by the Friends of the Round Lake Area Parks Foundation. | JUDY MASTERSON~SUN-TIMES MEDIA
ABOUT THE PARK DISTRICT
The Round Lake Area Park District is a member of Special Recreation Services of Northern Lake County, along with the Lindenhurst, Waukegan and Zion park districts. The group combines funds, facilities and resources to provide a wide range of recreation programs for individuals with special needs of all ages.
For more information, in the Round Lake area, contact (847) 740-9828.
Updated: November 8, 2013 2:36AM
The 5K Run/Walk held every September by the Round Lake Area Park District is much more than a race — it’s a way to bring joy to some very special people.
Proceeds from the race help Round Lake area residents participate in the annual Special Olympics, which uses athletic competition to help build confidence, physical fitness and community among people with developmental disabilities.
Mark Peters, 20, of Round Lake Beach, sped through the run/walk, which kicked off at 8 a.m. Sunday outside the Round Lake Beach Sports Center. Peters, who was born with cerebral palsy, is the reigning Special Olympics state champion in the 50-meter motorized wheelchair slalom. He has also competed in bowling, and track and field.
The mascot for his Round Lake Super Stars team, Peters works hard at selling candy bars to help raise money for the special recreation effort, and had this to say about the 3.1 mile run/walk he was about to embark on: “I like it!”
About 100 runners and walkers showed up for the event, including Jenny Sparks, 18, of Grayslake and her mom Karen Sparks. Jenny works as a mentor for members of the park district’s Special Recreation program and she has served as a volunteer coach for the Super Stars’ basketball team.
“The Special Olympics gives people a chance to shine, to get involved and stay active,” said Sparks.
Sparks suffered some serious health issues as a younger teen and after she began volunteering to assist people with developmental disabilities, she found new courage.
“It changed her, made her more positive,” Karen Sparks said of her daughter. “The challenges they have to face and overcome on a daily basis inspired her.”
The run/walk, which has paid for things like basketball uniforms and chartered bus trips, is one of several events sponsored throughout the year by the Friends of the Round Lake Area Parks Foundation to bolster funding for activities that also include summer camp, senior fitness and theater. But the cause of the Special Olympians is, perhaps, the most special.
“We have won many, many, many gold medals,,” said Chris Gentes, president of the Friends, who ticked off success in bocce ball, tennis, and golf. “Our athletes have so much fun and they’re with people they’ve been friends with for years.”
Peters, reminded of an upcoming trip he will be taking with special rec friends to Nashville, Tenn., flashed a brilliant smile, and said his group will stay, not in a hotel, but in a house.
Lisa Deligio, new supervisor for the park district’s Special Recreation program, noted that Peters will take on a new challenge for the next Olympics — adaptive golf.
“Mark asked me shortly after I started what I thought of him,” Deligio said.
“I said, ‘You are a 20-year-old man who has a body that doesn’t go as fast as your brain.’”