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Eastern Nazarene College hosts Special Olympics basketball games

The Patriot Ledger - 1/12/2019

Jan. 12--QUINCY -- Dozens of kids bonded with their peers through sports during a series of Special Olympics Unified Sports basketball games at Eastern Nazarene College on Saturday morning.

"The idea of sports is to bring people together, so this is really just another way of bringing people together," said Toni Kabilian, the athletic director for the college and an organizer for the event. She said the morning's games were a chance for the younger athletes to play, but also for students from the college to further involve themselves with the community.

Kabilian said around 30 athletes from nearby middle schools came out for the tournament, and around 50 students from the college volunteered to help run the event and cheer on the younger athletes. Teams from the Joseph Lee School, Orchard Gardens Pilot School and Curley Middle School came to play a series of low-stakes games as a practice for upcoming regional competitions.

The Special Olympics' Unified Sports program has people with and without intellectual disabilities playing alongside each other on the same teams.

Bruce Clark, a basketball coach from the Joseph Lee K-8 School in Dorchester, was there with nine middle school students from his team. He said he's been working with the Special Olympics Unified Sports at different schools for around 30 years.

"Now, we're trying to bring the kids together, to show that their abilities are really the same," he said.

Clark said that students in both special education and general education programs benefit from the unified sports program. The kids can hone their athletic skills, but most importantly, they form friendships with the other athletes. Students with and without intellectual disabilities really aren't that different from each other, and having them play alongside each other makes sense, Clark said.

"They're in school with each other, they walk along the hallways saying 'hi' to each other, why not bring them together in a non-academic setting?" he said.

Viviana Coix, the president of the college's Student Athletic Advisory Committee, said the event was a chance to highlight her school's commitment to making community service a part of everyday life.

"We're servant leaders," she said. "It's something we really pride ourselves in."

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