On Wednesday, Jan. 16, Freedom’s Unified Sports program participated in its first mini basketball game of the Unified basketball season. The event garnered an enthusiastic crowd, eager to see the athletes put out so much effort for their team to win the game.
Partner athletes and volunteers also participated in the game as teammates, scorekeepers and as the referee, only adding to the spirit of cooperation evident throughout the game.
“It’s beautiful getting to see how the program creates a unifying culture of inclusion throughout the school,” senior Nicole Castelblanco said. “There’s no feeling like when you see the athletes play games like this one and seeing their eyes light up and seeing them proud of themselves. It’s their moment to have people cheering for them and purely enjoying the game.
Every basket was met with a loud cheer throughout the game, and it was clear from the start that it was an enjoyable experience for all who participated, as well as spectators.
“Seeing the athletes so excited and seeing the crowd cheering was such a good experience not only for myself but for the athletes as well who don’t often have opportunities like this,” partner-athlete Karen Xu said.
Unified Sports has grown very much as a program recently, adding bocce and basketball to its successful track season as well as adding multiple new members. It was even recognized as a “model program” by Jeff Morse Loudoun County Public School Board chairman.
“As part of the leadership team, I would love to continue to expand our program, as well as help other schools implement their own Special Olympic teams,” Castelblanco said. “I love how much we’ve expanded so far, and I know that this is just the beginning for Loudoun County’s involvement with the Special Olympics program.”
The final score was 18-16 to the white team. There is one more mini-game planned for Jan 31 at 4:30 p.m. and a full game on Feb 8 at 4:30 p.m. Everyone is encouraged to come out and support the team.