NORMAL, Ill. (WMBD) — This summer, WMBD is taking a road trip and showcasing the community’s viewers call home. This week, our stop is in Normal!

This weekend, the Special Olympics of Illinois (SOILL) will host its annual summer games in the Town for the first time since 2019. The event was canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19 and was held virtually in 2021 due to then-pandemic regulations.

“It’s our biggest event as an organization of every year, so we’re looking forward to bringing it back,” SOILL director of state championships, Nate Henry.

Held at Illinois State University every year since 1977, the event brings 4,000 athletes statewide together for a weekend of fun and competition. Athletes who qualified compete in many sports including soccer, swimming and track.

“They have to qualify at a regional event and if they win gold at that event then they can make it to the summer games and that’s what we’re here competing for,” Henry said.

However, none of it is possible without some help from the local community; Henry said they need help this weekend on all three days. Possible roles include event scoring, souvenir sales and awards presenters.

“We need usually about 2,000 volunteers throughout the weekend for this event, and we simply couldn’t do it without them,” Henry said.

Henry said community members can either sign up individually or as part of a large group.

“They don’t need to be an expert in that sport we do volunteer training in the shift, so before they work with the athletes, they’re getting the training they need,” Henry said.

ISU started hosting the games on its campus in 1977. Director of media relations, Eric Jome said many students, faculty and staff volunteer during the weekend.

“Just helping out with registration, helping out with the athletes, helping out with the events, it’s really kind of a great community spirit,” Jome said.

Jome said it’s great to host large events on campus again as the past two years, the university didn’t or couldn’t host them. This weekend, athletes will take over ISU’s athletics facilities and residence halls.

“It’s something we’ve long been proud to be a host site of, so it’s exciting to see them back again this summer,” Jome said.

The games begin Friday, June 17, and last through Sunday, June 19.

Those interested in volunteering can sign up online on the SOILL Summer Games site or email, nhenry@soill.org.