DU QUOIN, Ill. — A Du Quoin father’s love for his daughter has turned into a successful fundraiser for Special Olympics Illinois. January marked the 10th anniversary for the organizations Indoor Softball Tournaments at the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds.
Dozens of athletes leave it all on the diamond at what’s known as the "super bowl" of softball. The tournament allows girls ages 12 to 16 from multiple states to compete for a coveted trophy. And it’s all an effort to raise money for Special Olympics. The tournament was started by Du Quoin native, Bill Asbury.
"I’ve got four girls and three of them were into cheerleading, doing sports, and I wanted this little girl right here to get into Sports and Special Olympics was the place to be," said Bill Asbury.
Bill’s youngest daughter Brenna, has Down Syndrome.
"I want to make him happy for this tournament and be with him for a long time," said Brenna.
"If it wasn’t for her, we wouldn’t have started doing this," added Bill.
He said Special Olympics has had such a positive impact on Brenna’s life, he was inspired to help raise money for other Special Olympic Athletes to compete in games.
"She’s been Prom Queen for Du Quoin High School. She sings. she does Sports. She’s a gold medal winner in a lot of different things," said Bill.
In this year’s tournament, 58 Special Olympic athletes participated in various parts of the three-day event.
"He’s serving a community of people that have very little support outside of the organization of Special Olympics," said tournament committee member Keenan Rice.
But Bill never imagined how much impact his tournament and other fundraising efforts would have on some many others.
"It’s been very fulfilling to see somebody have so much dedication to a cause," said Keenan.
"The athletes love him and know him and want to be here," added Kimberly Talley.
Organizers said, to date, Bill has raised over $700,000 to help the organization and the athletes.
"Just watching his leadership. You can always learn from someone who is successful," said Kim.
"The joy that Bill brings to these athletes by working to put on this event and to fundraise for these athletes. If it wasn’t for Bill, these athletes would not have nearly the opportunities that they have today," added Tibretta Raiman.
Twenty-eight softball teams competed for this year’s top spot and for the first time ever Bill held an exhibition unified game. That game placed Special Olympic athletes on the field with peer partners from Elverado and Du Quoin junior high schools.
"We do not have softball as a unified sport, so we’re trying to bring this into Special Olympic as a Unified Sport," said Bill.
"The sky’s the limit if the leader is willing to run through a brick wall to meet his goals," added Keenan.
Bills said all you have to do is watch one game and your eyes will be forever opened.
"These guys are my Unsung Hero. If I look up to anybody it’s this one right here," added Bill.
Bill also holds a polar plunge, duck derby, and a baseball tournament for the boys. That tournament will be held February 1-3.