While your donations help support Special Olympics Oregon's year round sports training and competitions, it is also a vital factor in our ability to expand our Unified Sports program, where individuals with and without intellectual disabilities play on the same team.
Special Olympics Oregon Unified Sports is changing the culture in Oregon schools. By joining people with and without intellectual disabilities together on the same team, stereotypes about people who have an intellectual disability disappear, understanding grows and friendships are made. As a result, schools are becoming more accepting, inclusive and respect is being shown to those with intellectual disabilities.
Now, for the first time ever, a High School Unified Basketball league has been created. There are 39 games on the schedule in the Portland-metro area this season and it has already provided participants and spectators alike with amazing experiences!
Athletic Directors from schools around Oregon are treating their Unified basketball teams just like their Varsity and Junior Varsity teams by incorporating the games into the season's schedule, providing similar uniforms as other teams and providing newly trained coaches. Games are also planned with cheerleaders, a game announcer and a student cheering section that is full of enthusiasm.
"Our first night of Unified Basketball games was incredibly successful. Parents came up to me after the game and were so appreciative that their child got to be part of a school team. They never envisioned that their child would wear the same high school uniform as an older brother or sister," said Jean Hansen, Director of Youth Outreach for Special Olympics Oregon.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to attend one of these Unified Basketball games you need to. If you don’t want to take our word for it, then here are some quotes from a couple of people who recently attended a game for the first time:
"To ALL - If there's ever a chance to see one of these games even if you know no-one on either team - GO! Just watching the peer mentors help these kids - and all the celebrations after making a basket - it's a win/win all around! The fans cheering for both teams, the refs even high-fiving the kids. It made my week!”
"It was one of the best things I've ever seen. To see the band, cheer, students and staff get so spirited and support the efforts of these kids was so awesome… it made my week.”