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Davis Journal

Special Olympics Utah Unified Sports tournament gives kids a chance to shine

Apr 01, 2022 01:20PM ● By Becky Ginos

CLEARFIELD—Players taking the basketball court at Clearfield High last week were thrilled to be a part of a team as they participated for the first time in the Davis School District’s Special Olympics Utah Unified Sports tournament. Teams were made up of athletes with intellectual disabilities and other students without disabilities.

“It’s all about inclusion,” said Davis Education Executive Director Jodi Lunt. “The event was spectacular. It exceeded our expectations. It was a wonderful day for our students and the community.”

The Unified Sports program is part of Utah First Lady Abby Cox’s “Show Up” initiative to expand the program in Utah schools. “We worked with her to find out how we could grow the program in the Davis School District,” said Lunt. “We worked with the Special Olympics and they were committed and all in. Our incredible friend Murdock (Family Foundation) paid for the uniforms, busing, etc. They gave us a $20,000 donation so that every school could participate.”

It takes a village, she said. “It’s incredible to participate in this initiative and move it forward and to see people work together to make an incredible experience for students.”

Lunt said they worked with the special education department to find a group of kids who wanted to play. “Student leaders and others practiced with them during advisory period at school. They met the student athletes and helped them learn how to play the game.”

Special Ed played a vital role, she said. “We also worked with coaches on staff – people who had a passion and were excited about this.”

There were 11 teams with 15 kids on them, Lunt said. “The bleachers were full of friends and cheerleaders. The kids were just thrilled.”

“Not only do these wonderful students make friends on the court, they also keep those friendships as they attend class and see each other in the hallway,” said Cox. “This commitment from Davis School District, the Davis Education Foundation and the Murdock Family Foundation is an incredible step toward ensuring that every student in Davis School District feels loved, has friends who support them and that everyone feels a sense of inclusion and belonging.”

Each team was mixed with at least six, seven or eight athletes with limited or intellectual disabilities. “We wanted to make sure everybody had the opportunity to feel success and excitement on the court,” said Lunt. “This will be an ongoing program in the district. It will be part of the system. Unified Sports will stay for us.”

In May there will be a track piece, she said. “We’ll be adding soccer in the fall from September to October. There will also be an elementary decathlon for special education Unified Sports in May as well.”

It goes across all sports, said Lunt. “Everyone has a passion for Special Olympics. This gives kids the opportunity to make friends and build skills while the other athletes learn compassion.”

Lunt said she’s grateful for the support of Cox and Murdock. “Other community members who are interested in supporting this can engage at their school. If you want to sustain the program by donating to the Davis Education Foundation, we’d love to have as many friends in this endeavor as possible.” λ

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