Autism… it is just a label. Just because someone has autism, doesn’t make him/ her any different from you and me. That’s why it was so heartwarming to see the bleachers filled at the City Hill Middle School Unified Sports basketball game on February 18th against Great Oak Middle School. The students involved in the Wingman Program at City Hill school wanted to make this an unforgettable moment for both teams. To make this happen, some of the Wingman program's squadron leaders as well as other students made individualized posters which were used to cheer on each player. In addition, each athlete on the court received a framed Wordle with the team’s school name and all of the team players’ names in it.
The Sound Sport band performed three great songs during halftime which entertained not just the crowd but the athletes as well. The athletes were ecstatic and all the coaches from both Great Oak and City Hill were very grateful. “The school spirit and sportsmanship for both teams was truly special. It was an honor to be involved and be a part of such a strong and supportive family,” stated one of the coaches. In addition, the parents of the athletes were overwhelmed at the strong show of support for their children.
The fans in the stands were genuinely happy to be cheering for the athletes. “It was an exciting and inspirational experience!” said Molly Kennelly of City Hill. It was also described as “fun”, “great”, “amazing” and “an excellent community builder.” Teachers believe that it was “one of the highlights of the school year so far.” So, as you can see, this small act of going to a basketball game and cheering for the players is something that can – and does – make a big difference in people’s lives. The players were smiling the entire game and really loved playing in front of a packed audience. Their smiles were so vibrant that even more people would like to help out in some capacity regarding this event next year! Plus, not only did this bring our school closer together, it also has spurred Great Oak on to try and top us with something special next year! Once they saw what we as a school community did, they want to try and make their unified games just as exciting!
The Squadron Leaders in the Wingman Program at City Hill were so proud to be a part of this wonderful experience. They hope to continue promoting positivity not just in the school, but in the community at large. “We really want to bring everyone closer together,” commented one of the leaders. Wingman is meant to bring all of us closer, and that is exactly what the Unified basketball game did.
Unified Sports® is a registered program of Special Olympics that combines approximately equal numbers of athletes with and without intellectual disability on sports teams for training and competition. Unified Sports is played extensively throughout Connecticut's schools in partnership with CAS/ CIAC. Find out more information on their website.