Funding effort for Special Olympics MI training site goes public

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BYRON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — For Special Olympian CJ Van Skiver, a new, world-class training center in her own hometown represents more than a chance to train among her best competitors.

It’s a chance to hang out with her best friends. 

“I just love them,” CJ said. “In sports and outside of sports — it’s awesome.”

On Thursday, Special Olympics Michigan announced a multi-million-dollar campaign to turn a former high school into a new training center for Special Olympics athletes.

The Building Tomorrow’s Champions campaign, launched in 2020, already has the support of over 100 community donors, businesses and foundations.   

Hallways of the building have been empty since 2018 when South Christian High School moved to a new location. The fundraising campaign would turn the school into the world’s largest Special Olympics training site.

Special Olympics Michigan President and CEO Tim Hileman calls the project the next step in a global movement.

“Where individuals that not only know us for our sports but for our accessible health programs, for our young athletes’ programs, our unified championships school programs. We’re going to be the first program to bring those together under one roof,” Hileman said.

Along with training facilities, the building will feature a health clinic, theater, fitness center and conference space.

Special Olympics partners would also have space available.

“Nine other nonprofits are going to be housed here and they’re providing great services to the community,” Hileman said.

The goal to make it all happen would cost about $20 million. Already, $6.7 million has been raised.    

Hileman has little doubt the rest of it will come together.

“We’ve had incredible partnerships, community support. And we’ve got great athlete leaders who when individuals come to an event or come to see the building, they get it,” Hileman said. “They see the inclusiveness about it.”

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