Chicago

Leaving a lasting impression in our Major cities

As we head towards the Bank of America Chicago Marathon week, we take a look at how our Abbott World Marathon Majors charity donation a year ago to both the University of Illinois's Division of Disability Resources and Educational Services and the American Heart Association has been put to good use in and around the windy city….

University of Illinois

Several of the elite wheelchair athletes that you see racing on the Abbott World Marathon Majors series are based at the University of Illinois and coached under the guidance of former US Paralympian Adam Bleakney. Himself a winner of the Chicago marathon back in 2002, Adam coaches several elite level athletes including Series XII Champion Daniel Romanchuk and multiple series winner Tatyana McFadden, along with Susannah Scaroni and Aaron Pike. But he also works with wheelchair athletes of all ages and abilities and he, along with the University of Illinois, have a vision of creating a new immersive experience for a unique population. They want to create an atmosphere and facility where disability is normalized.

To get this vision in motion, the Abbott World Marathon Majors donation supported the kick start they needed in this project by allowing them to engage architects and creating visual plans to show what can be achieved and what they want to bring to life -- A Center for Movement and Performance.

This proposed state-of-the-art indoor multi-use facility will be home to the University of Illinoiswheelchair track and wheelchair basketball programs. Intersecting technological research andinnovation with the energy of athletic pursuit, the Center will push mobility and human performance into the next frontier.

Driving the project is the need to update their training facilities.

Adam explained, ‚"Our vision for this facility is that it will take the pillars of our program -- outreach, education, research, innovation and performance -- and extend and augment them, allowing us to be even more impactful and have greater reach.

‚"The interest and support from the university and the Champaign-Urbana community is very encouraging. We are uniquely positioned in that we have access to some of the brightest students and faculty in the world, a research park and tech incubator, and a major hospital. We are positioned to bring so many potential partners together to create something truly remarkable, something that is so much more than a sports or disabled sports facility.

‚"We can make full use of the people around us and create a space that offers research, innovation, outreach and education. We support and want to do more to support grassroots, junior level athletes and the military alongside our elite programs.

‚"As a former undergraduate student athlete with a physical disability, I have seen firsthand the impact that support and facilities can have. We are so grateful for the support from everyone at the Abbott World Marathon Majors in helping us gets this project underway."

So, what's next and how does this vision become a reality?

Bleakney continued, ‚"The main part of our work now is to get out there and spread the word. We are looking for partners who can help us move this forward and bring this concept to a reality. We have energy behind it and I really believe the excitement and passion for this project is out there."

For more information on this vision, contact the Division of Disability Resources and Educational Services at bleakney@illinois.edu

American Heart Association

Congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defect in the country, affecting 8 out of every 1000 babies born. The American Heart Association funds more congenital heart defect research than any other institution in the United States outside of the federal government.

During American Heart Month, the American Heart Association work with local hospitals to raise awareness of congenital heart defects and heart disease through the Little Hats, Big Hearts program. Babies born at 43 Chicago-area hospitals receive hand-knitted red hats in February, along with information on the signs and symptoms of heart disease. Last year, more than 7000 hats were distributed throughout Chicagoland!

‚"At the American Heart Association, we are working to create longer, healthier lives for all Chicagoans," said Lisa Hinton, the Heart Association's Metro Chicago executive director. ‚"Through the generous support of Abbott World Marathon Majors, we can reach the youngest members of our community, inspiring them to adopt healthy behaviors that will have a profound impact on their lives now and throughout adulthood."

With the donation the American Heart Association is able to support the Little Hates, Big Hearts program as well as multiple projects across education, research and prevention to help advance all areas of their mission to create longer, healthier lives. They are currently investing more than $24 million in medical research studies at Chicago institutions, and they trained more than 475,000 Illinois residents in CPR last year alone.

For more information, please visit www.heart.org