Chicago-area man who helped inspire Special Olympics dies


CHICAGO (AP) — Michael "Moose" Cusack, a Chicago-area man who helped inspire the Special
Olympics movement and who won multiple medals at the athletic event over years, has died. He was 64.
The Chicago Tribune reported Monday that Cusack, who had Down syndrome, died at Good Shepherd Manor in
Momence, just south of Chicago, on Dec. 17 of natural causes associated with Alzheimer’s.
When he was 10, Cusack joined a Chicago Park District program for children with disabilities, where he
met a young physical education teacher, Anne Burke, who is now the chief justice on the Illinois Supreme
Eunice Kennedy Shriver and Burke laid the groundwork for the first Special Olympics at Chicago’s Soldier
Field in 1968, at which Cusack won his first gold medal in the 25-yard (22.86-meter) freestyle swim.
Burke credits Cusack for her idea about creating a citywide track meet for children with special needs
that morphed into the Special Olympics.
"He was the impetus," Burke said. "He was the reason why we had the first Special
The Special Olympics has since branched out to over 170 countries and millions of athletes. It has also
become a human rights movement for a segment of society that often was shoved to the background.
The organization’s 50th anniversary was celebrated in Chicago in 2018.
Connie McIntosh, one of Cusack’s four sisters, described her brother as kind, gentle and polite, as well
as good-humored. One of his favorite movies was "The Wizard of Oz" and he was a big Elvis
Presley fan.
"He lived fully, and he was joyful," she told the newspaper. "He was loving and he
embraced being loved. He made us better people."
Cusack continued to compete into his 50s, when a stroke led to him losing mobility in his left arm.
Though swimming was his passion, he played multiple sports, including basketball, bowling, floor hockey
and golf.
One of Cusack’s former coaches credited not just Cusack, but his family for advocating for kids with
special needs. When he was a small child, Cusack’s parents, John and Esther Cusack, helped set up a
special-needs school with other parents when they couldn’t find other options.
"That whole family made an impact on the world," said Gerry Henaghan, one of Michael Cusack’s
former coaches.
Cusack’s funeral is scheduled for Wednesday.
This story has been corrected to Anne "Burke" in the third paragraph.

No posts to display