Special Olympics benefit to honor Rosen, Kelly

Excerpt from: Beverly Review

Morgan Park residents Mitch Rosen and Michael Kelly are in positions where every day, they can help athletes with special needs.

Both of them have taken advantage of those opportunities, and now, they will be celebrated for their efforts.

Rosen, the operations director of 670-AM The Score radio, and Kelly, the CEO and superintendent of the Chicago Park District, have supported Special Olympics-Chicago for many years, whether it’s participating in fundraisers or enhancing programming.

On Feb. 5, they will be honored at the Special Olympics-Chicago Evening Reception, a fundraiser at Carnivale Restaurant, 702 W. Fulton St., from 5:30 to 9 p.m.

Rosen couldn’t say enough good things about Special Olympics-Chicago and the opportunities it provides.

“It’s near and dear to my heart,” Rosen said. “I feel these people are athletes. They’re brothers; they’re sisters; and they’re kids of parents. The Special Olympics is special.”

Although both are well known throughout the local community, Rosen and Kelly only met through their work with Special Olympics-Chicago, as they had previously helped plan the reception.

They have also participated in many Special Olympics-Chicago events. Rosen helped organize the first Polar Plunge, which was held 18 years ago, and for three years, he has participated in the fundraiser, which enlists people to dive into a frigid Lake Michigan at North Avenue Beach on the first Sunday of March.

He has also helped promote the annual Special Olympics-Chicago Spring Games, using his position at the radio station to help spread the word.

Rosen, a North Side native who has lived locally for about 20 years, said he likes to see people smile. He wishes there were more smiles to go around in this day and age, but athletes with special needs enjoy plenty of smiles when they participate in the variety of programs offered by Special Olympics-Chicago.

“They’re smiling,” Rosen said. “They’re enjoying life. And it really touches hearts. It’s a great organization.”

Kelly, according to Special Olympics-Chicago officials, has been “a driving force” in expanding special-recreation programming at 23 parks in the city, as well as participating in the Polar Plunge.

In an email, Kelly expressed gratitude for being honored.

“I am humbled by this recognition and to be honored by an organization that has given so much to this city, state and to the world. A program that was conceived by one park district employee has now flourished into a worldwide phenomenon. As superintendent, I am proud to continue to support a mission that endures and that’s challenged us to be more accepting of individuals with varied capacities.”

The Polar Plunge has become popular locally, and last year several high schools teamed up with 19th Ward Ald. Matt O’Shea to take the plunge and raise funds to support the athletes.

Special Olympics-Chicago is also the grand marshal of this year’s South Side Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade on March 11, and the Parade Polar Plunge team, which will include several parade committee members, will participate in the next plunge on March 4.

Rosen said he’s “proud to call myself a member of the community” because of the charitable efforts that its residents are known for.

Just as he has in recent years, Rosen will join his son, Ben, a senior at Morgan Park Academy, at the plunge.

Spring might still feel a long way off, but the Rosens are excited to take the plunge.

“We’re looking forward to it,” Rosen said. “Hopefully it’ll be 40 or 50 [degrees] and not 10.

“But no matter what, we’ll jump in.”

Tickets to the Special Olympics-Chicago Evening Reception are $100, and the event is open to the public.

For more information, visit the website at sochicago.org.