Unified Olympians: They are Champions

Gwen Chamberlain
Members of the Penn Yan Orange team and the Penn Yan Cheerleaders celebrate winning the Unified basketball tournament at Keuka College last week.

Ask any athlete about the experience of playing a team sport, and you’re likely to hear variations of the same concepts: teamwork, focus on a common objective, assisting others, sharing, bonding, achieving higher goals, accomplishing more through collaboration than through individual effort, and just having fun.

Teams of 30 students from Penn Yan and Dundee Central Schools had opportunities to experience all those concepts and more when they participated in the Unified Special Olympics at Keuka College last week.

Unified sports are structured so people with and without intellectual disabilities play on the same team. The concept was inspired by a simple principle: training together and playing together is a quick path to friendship and understanding.

This first event matched two teams from Penn Yan— Orange vs. Blue — and two teams from Dundee — Maroon vs. White — in a preliminary game of basketball. The winners faced off in a championship game with the Penn Yan Orange team claiming the championship trophy.

Christine Paige of Dundee Central School, who coordinated the event, says the schools and Keuka College are already thinking about the next games. She says other area school districts are interested in participating too. “There’s a lot of great potential,” she says.