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JoAnn works for Gallagher, a global
insurance brokerage, risk management
and consulting services firm, and
Special Olympics Illinois partner and
sponsor. “Gallagher’s initiative is for
inclusion,” Jo Ann noted. “I’m really
proud to be behind that. I appreciate
that my company supports inclusion
for all.”
Special Olympics Illinois athlete Matthew
Davis, 36, is easy to love, according to
his dad, Dr. Jim Davis, and his
stepmom, JoAnn Pellegrino. “Everything
about him is awesome,” JoAnn said. “He
keeps me on track. He plans out our
meals. Picks out our grocery list. I would
be lost without him.”

She first heard about the partnership
when Gallagher sponsored their
employees to take a Plunge at their local
Polar Plunge. “I did it,” JoAnn laughed,
“it was cold.”

“He has an incredible memory,” added
Jim. “He’ll remember things from three
years ago, even if we visited a place
only once.”
Both say the growth they’ve seen in
Matthew inspires them. “Special
Olympics Illinois has done amazing
things for every athlete,” JoAnn said.
“And for Matthew, he went from
withdrawn and antisocial and now, you
see it in his face: ‘I belong.’”
This year, you can find JoAnn selling
merchandise and raising funds at the
Decatur Polar Plunge on March 4.
“When you go to schools now, you see
that everybody mixes. There’s no
division between the students with and
without intellectual disabilities. It’s just
so nice,” JoAnn said. “That’s because of
Special Olympics Illinois. And that’s why
I volunteer.”
One of Jim’s favorite moments was when
Matthew lost a race because he waited
for everyone to catch up to him. “He
slowed down until everyone caught up,”
Jim smiled.
JoAnn has spent many years
volunteering for Special Olympics
Illinois. It was through her that Matthew
started competing. “I had an aunt with
special needs,” JoAnn said. “And she
didn’t get to live her life out in the world.”
It’s because of Special Olympics, JoAnn
said, that athletes are embraced today.
“My aunt didn’t have Special Olympics.
I’m very passionate that everyone is

The Decatur Polar Plunge benefiting
Special Olympics Illinois will be
Saturday, March 4. To commit to taking
the Plunge, volunteer, donate, or to learn
more, please visit