News & Stories

A Dad’s Trek

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With more than 1,000 candles lining a 10-kilometer course, skiers and snowshoers trek across a frozen Lake Superior at night. Each year, Book Across the Bay attracts outdoor enthusiasts and athletes to the City of Ashland, Wisconsin. For the Bluemonds, it’s a family tradition. In less than 50 minutes, Special Olympics Illinois athlete Ben Bluemond can finish the race.

Before learning to run on snowshoes, he mastered his footwork on the track. After high school, Ben registered for area 5Ks, 10Ks, and half marathons. Then, four years ago, he learned about Special Olympics. Once Ben was registered, his father, Jim Bluemond, starting coaching Special Olympics athletics through the Fox Valley Special Rights Association. When Jim and Ben learned of snowshoeing, they saw an opportunity for Ben to condition his body for running year-round.

“We went ahead and tried snowshoeing,” said Jim. “He immediately fell in love with it… I’ve really enjoyed coaching. I was just so surprised when I was nominated for this role in Italy.”

From coaching his son to coaching Special Olympics USA athletes, Jim has been nominated to serve as a snowshoeing coach for the Special Olympics World Winter Games Turin 2025. To prepare for coaching in international competition Jim continues to train with Ben.

“He pushes me hard, but he’s awesome and very encouraging,” said Ben.

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Long before they knew of Special Olympics, Jim and his wife were strong advocates for the inclusion of individuals with disabilities, like their son. Employed in the human resources department at Argonne National Laboratory, Jim was a founder of Argonne Backs Listens and Educates for Disabilities (ABLED). Since 2018, ABLED’s vision has focused on creating a community for disability advocates, employees with disabilities, and parents of children with disabilities. As one of those parents, Jim understands the critical need for resources and support.

In his role, Jim also helped start the Parenting on the Spectrum Support Group, the Mental Health and Wellness Support Group and the Cancer Support Group. His efforts led to Argonne National Laboratory’s recognition as a 2021 “best place to work for disability inclusion” by Disability:In, a leading national disability advocacy group.

At work, and at home, Jim provides a shoulder to lean on, an ear to listen. As members of the Special Olympics Illinois Family Leadership Program, Jim, his wife, Christine, and his daughter, Emma, volunteer to help engage and recognize families statewide, inspiring new involvement to build a stronger Special Olympics Program.

“It has been an incredible journey to be part of Special Olympics,” said Jim. “I see the difference it has made in my son's life and you can't help but be inspired to give back. A few short years ago, I never would have thought that I would be working with such an impactful organization and have a chance to make a difference.”

In the coming months, Jim hopes to give back to Special Olympics USA athletes from across the country, preparing them for the snowy terrain of the Special Olympics World Winter Games.

“I want to make sure that they feel safe and included,” said Jim. “For most of them, this is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I want to make sure that they enjoy the moment. So, my focus is to make sure that they have a good experience and they are ready to perform at their best.”

Like the many candles that light the way atop a frozen Lake Superior, Jim illuminates a path toward a shared triumph, shared by his family and his athletes alike.