NORMAL - Hundreds of dads spent a special Father's Day weekend with their children at the Special Olympics Illinois Summer Games. Some saw their youngsters compete for the first time. | Photo gallery
"This just means everything to me. They've come a long way," Daniel Bailey said of his 5-year-old children, who were born six weeks early.
The Young Athletes Program showed six children from 2 to 7 years old - too young be in Special Olympics - how to perform physical activities that could lead to their participation once they reach age 8. The new program is open to children with developmental and physical disabilities.
Bailey and his wife, Colleen, brought their triplets from Schaumburg to participate in the program for younger children. Erin, Paige and Connor enjoyed bouncing an imaginary ball and sitting on the floor for the "heads, shoulders, knees and toes" activity.
Bailey said he could envision only one improvement to the holiday weekend.
"It will be better when they can get on the golf course," he said.
Dave Breen, vice president of area management for Special Olympics Illinois, brought his three children to the event held at Illinois State University.
About 700 families and 2,000 participants attended the Special Olympics events.
"Seeing all the families here with their children - it's just huge. And I love my kids seeing what's going on here," said Breen.
Rob Klobnak sat on the sidelines while two of his children were on the mats at the Young Athletes Program.
The family from Germantown Hills is involved in many activities designed to help the two children ages 7 and 5.
"I enjoy seeing them have fun. This is just another activity to try out for Savannah," Klobnak said of his 7-year-old daughter.
Klobnak said he will serve as grill master today for a Father's Day cookout.
Jennifer Marcello, manager of the Young Athletes Program, said she is encouraged with the interest in the opportunity for younger children, their siblings and friends.
"This is something to help kids get moving and improve their motor skills, coordination and social skills," said Marcello.
The six children who participated in the demonstration received Special Olympics plaques.