My Experience with Special Olympics

Corrin Rogers is a Youth Activation Committee Member from Delaware… this is her Special Olympics experience.

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I first got involved in Special Olympics through friends, and it has been one of the best experiences of my life. I was first involved through the 2012 Polar Bear Plunge. I was shocked and touched by how motivated the participants were in supporting Special Olympics. It was cold and windy, yet the spirit of the plungers brightened the event. Attending the Plunge that day truly inspired me to support Special Olympics Delaware.

I then started getting involved with other Special Olympics events, including Fans in the Stands for the Summer Games. Watching all the athletes up close taught me that being involved in Special Olympics really can make a difference in the personal impact of others.

I was then encouraged to apply for the Project UNIFY Youth Activation Committee and was honored when I was accepted as a member. Being on this committee has further increased my knowledge and participation with Special Olympics. I have become more aware that inclusion is not just an idea, but an action that can make a change in the lives of athletes.

Perhaps one of my favorite experiences was being a Unified Partner of the Newark team. Although I was certainly not the best bowler, my bowling partner and I realized that having fun and trying our best was truly the greatest achievement.

Being involved in Special Olympics, from the sports to the inclusive camaraderie, has enriched my life.

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UNIFIED

Written By: Morgan Lang- Calvert County, MD Unified Partner

U is for Unbelievable
N is for Necessary
I is for Impressive
F is for Fearless
I is for Incredible
E is for Extraordinary
D is for Devoted

But these words do not describe the Unified Partner that I am so honored to be
But the athletes I compete next to and what they are to me.
I started as a partner to teach them how to play sports
They taught be more about life then I could learn on the courts.
As I meet more and more athletes each and every year
My heart grows with love but also hurts with fear
Why fear you ask, cause I know that someday soon as I go off to college and get settled
That the day will come when I can’t be there to see my friends get every Bronze, Silver and Gold medals.
So as I grow into my new life and overcome more feats
You should know that the ones that helped me are all my special athletes.
You tell me thank you, and you say you admire me
But to me YOU are the ones that are so INSPIRING.
I hope that I have left a little piece of me behind
To teach more people out there how to be kind
I hope to continue to inspire more partners to start
But to you my athletes I say thank you and you will always have my heart.

Youth Voice at the Department of Education

On Tuesday March 25, Special Olympics Project UNIFY staff, along with youth leaders and educators from across the country, presented to the Department of Education on the power and growth of Project UNIFY over the last year. Special Olympics athlete and youth leader Kabir Robinson from Special Olympics Washington, joined Delaware youth leader Connor Moore and educators Erin Trzcinski and Tom Ledcke, from Delaware and Washington, respectively, to share their personal experiences with Project UNIFY.

Kabir’s impactful remarks are below. Stay tuned on the blog for more powerful experiences from Connor, Tom and Erin, or watch the entire presentation here

Introductory Remarks

20140325_094050_resized[2]Hi everyone. My name is Kabir Robinson. I live in Seattle, Washington. I am a member of the National Youth Activation Committee. I have been involved with Special Olympics for 3 to 4 years. I joined because I just want to be treated equally and be happy. I also want to be a better leader in sports.

I have a twin brother. When we were in middle school, he played soccer. He went to practices with his friends and played in games every weekend. I really wanted to play too, but I couldn’t. At school, people were always talking about how cool soccer was. Sometimes I got to play with my friends at middle school, but I wanted to play soccer for real and be on a team.

I felt lonely and left out and sad that I couldn’t play. It wasn’t fair that my brother could be on a team and I couldn’t because I wasn’t fast enough. I just wanted to be happy.

Then, when I went to Nathan Hale High School, one of the coaches for Unified soccer came to my classroom. I found out that people were having meetings about Unified soccer and I decided to go. I was so happy and excited about being on a team. I got more and more excited until we started practices, which were awesome. My team won 10 games. It is so fun to be part of a team.

All I want to say is that I was never fast enough in 7th and 8th grade. But in 9th grade, I did it!

Also, everyone in this room is awesome.

I love public speaking to people about sports for those with and without intellectual disabilities. I love to talk. It is awesome and a lot of fun to speak to people out in public. I love talking to all of you about sports and people with intellectual disabilities. It’s been a lot of fun!

 

Testimonial

Online StreamI have made a lot of friends. This means a lot to me. In school, I just want to learn new things, so I asked my teacher to sign me up for mainstream classes in Spanish and art.

I also want to be with the other sophomores, not just my special education class, because my intellectual disability doesn’t define me. I am a sophomore first. So now, at school assemblies, I sit with all the other 10th graders!

Since Project UNIFY, I am happier and more confident.

Through working with my friends on Project UNIFY, I have learned about myself. I have things to say and people want to hear them.

A leader helps people gets things done. They make you see what good ideas you have. They help you organize your ideas and make something happen. Inclusive Youth Leadership is important to me because it helps me feel included in every way. Then I can help others feel included and I care a lot about other people.

To spread inclusion around makes me happy.

Combined Talents

 An inspiring poem from Joe Olivo, Grade 11, Narragansett High School in Rhode Island

Spreading the word to end the word.
Playing together as one whole unit.
Making lifelong friends.
Feeling strong.
Cohesiveness is key.
Splendid season.
Sending a positive message.
Everyone on the same page.
Working together.
The more we play the stronger we become.
Changing attitudes and opening up minds.
The future looks bright.
Spreading the word to end the word.

And check out a great Spread the Word to End the Word video from the 2014 Narragansett High School Unified Sports Basketball Team.

Unified Track and Field at Lunenburgh High School

As summer break comes to an end and school officially starts, we wanted to share a great post on Unified Sports from Special Olympics Massachusetts Unified Partner David Albertini of Lunbenburg High School. As David begins his senior year of high school, he shares his experience on the power of Unified Sports.  

Having unified track at our school last year was really fun. It was very nice to see so many people of different backgrounds and walks of life down on the track. I myself ran on the Lunbenburg High School track team, but having the unified track team there three days a week was quite an experience. It was  amazing to see all of the athletes at Lunenburg High School running on the same track. While we may be all of different speeds and skill levels, we were all athletes and we were all looking to compete. There was no labels on anyone except for their lane numbers. This is something anyone would appreciate, runner or not.

I have to admit that I was uncertain as to how this whole thing would work out, but after the first practice I realized we had a lot more in common that I thought.

We were all athletes and wanted to get better and win.

The final meet at the end of the season with all the unified track teams was a lot of work but it was all worth it. It was hot out and on an artificial turf surface, but it was so much fun to see every person on that track trying their best. There is something to be said about people who try their best and are proud of it. The biggest difference for me was that I was working the meet instead of running in the meet. Other than that, it had the same look and feel of any other meet I had been to, that was something else I hadn’t expected. I could relate to the athletes being nervous, excited, disappointed, and victorious at different points in the meet.

I think a lot of misconceptions and barriers came down during the meet.

At the end of the season we had our Spring track Banquet, as we do every year. It seemed natural that the Unified Sports Track Team would be included in the celebration along with the boys’ team and girls’ team. As the coaches handed out varsity letters and other awards, the excitement level increased and you could really see the pride and sense of accomplishment among the track athletes (all of them) and their families. All three teams had a great time and I think everyone learned a lot about each other. I think the second year will be even better. I hope all of our track programs continue to attract new members.

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Unified Sports at World Games

Yesterday, five youth leaders from the Global Youth Activation Summit had the opportunity to participate in the Floor Hockey Unified Sports Experience. The event was a great chance for our youth leaders to show off their sports skills and have fun with some amazing Special Olympics supporters!! Unified Sports Experience events pair Special Olympics athletes with partners, celebrities and supporters in an exhibition match that helps promote the importance of Unified Sports within Special Olympics.

Abraham Moreno and Daniel Giordani of Special Olympics Southern California were two of the lucky young people selected to play in the game. 

“My experience playing in the Unified Sports Floor Hockey Game was incredible. I am glad to be selected to play in that game at the world’s grand stage at the World Winter Games. I totally love to play floor hockey, I love it very much and I wish I could play it every single day. I was glad to play floor hockey again for the first time in two months. It was a great feeling playing it again.

The officials gave us uniforms to wear and there were four teams. I was on the blue team. We played two games. I scored two goals in the first game. We had a big lead in the first half of the game, then the other team caught up to tie the score 6-6. In the last minute, my team was able to break the tie and win the game. In the second game, it was for the championship, winner against winter. There were celebrities that played and they were pretty tall. We won the game by five and got first place.

I was glad that I was able to play in this game and I had a great time.”

– Abraham Moreno, athlete

Abraham Moreno faces off against former NBA star Sam Perkins in the Floor Hockey Unified Sports Experience

Abraham Moreno faces off against former NBA star Sam Perkins in the Floor Hockey Unified Sports Experience

“My Unified Sports Experience was a very enjoyable one. I played floor hockey. Although we lost both games, I bonded with all of my teammates and we had a blast! I didn’t realize how much fun floor hockey could be. It was such an amazing experience meeting so many people of different races, genders and abilities. While participants in Unified Sports, all of our difference seemed to be non-existent and we were just out there having a good time and enjoying each other’s company.

Unified Sports really bring out the true meaning of Special Olympics: love, acceptance and tolerance.

It was amazing.”

– Daniel Giordani, partner

Friendship through Golf

The following post comes from Michael H, a High School junior and Unified Partner. Michael and Jason, a Special Olympics athlete, recently competed in the Unified Sports division of the Special Olympics North America Golf Invitational Tournament.

I have had some experience in volunteering in the past.  My mom has always encouraged (okay, pressured) me to do different forms of volunteering, but my experience with the Unified Partners and Special Olympics has been a wholly different experience.

I first joined the program because an email had been forwarded to all fall sports athletes looking for volunteers.  At the time, I was participating in the off-season baseball camps at my high school.  When my mom asked if I was interested in playing golf as a volunteer – I replied yes, because I love golf and I thought it would be a really good experience to help.

I really had no idea what to expect from the program as I had never heard of the program or spoken with anyone who had participated before.  I showed up at the first practice at the golf course certain that I would not know a soul.  While still in the parking lot unloading my clubs, I recognized a kid from my grade named Jason.  I had recognized Jason from my freshman year Health/PE class and he often sat at the same lunch table with me and my friends, but quite honestly, we really did not know each other.  I soon found out that Jason was one of the athletes looking for a partner and we started our partnership on the golf course that day.

We have partnered in multiple tournaments including the National Special Olympics Golf Tournament in Phoenix last month where we won the silver medal in our flight.

In the beginning, had anyone asked why, I would have said I was volunteering to help others.  Over a year later, I can honestly say, the experience with the Unified Partners Special Olympics has ultimately helped me.  The people in the program – from our director, our coach, Jason’s family and all of the athletes and volunteers I have met – have been so incredible.

Through my stories about the experience, I have recently recruited some friends to join me in the program. I have enjoyed the practices, the tournaments and the special events (like our recent Arizona Special Olympics Breakfast of Champions)…but seeing the smile on Jason’s face and knowing he too is enjoying himself is the best part of it all.

When my mom talked about how volunteering was good for the soul, I always assumed it was one of her silly attempts to get me to do something I did not really want to do.  Now I can truly relate to Booker T. Washington’s famous quote: “If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else”.