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Special Olympics teams face off during NSU match Saturday

Aberdeen American News - 1/13/2018

Jan. 13--The rivalry between the Northern State University and Augustana University basketball teams will spill into halftime today, as local athletes hit the court for the second annual Special Olympics Unified Basketball Game.

Teams representing Aberdeen and Sioux Falls will play during the halftimes of both the men's and women's games. It's part of the Unified Champions Schools Special Olympics program.

Each unified basketball team will be made up of college-age athletes who have intellectual disabilities and Northern and Augustana students without disabilities.

The goal is to promote social inclusion through education and shared sports experiences, said Julie Briggs, vice president of outreach with Special Olympics South Dakota.

"We want to really try to educate through sports and other activities, by providing knowledge and promoting acceptance and dignity for all," she said by phone Thursday.

This year, Briggs worked mainly with John Eckstein, director of athletic marketing and events at Northern, to match students with athletes.

"Northern's been wonderful, they just love the program," she said. "It wouldn't be able to happen without the support from the community."

The women's game starts at 4 p.m. at Wachs Arena in the Barnett Center. The men tip off at 6 p.m. There will be a Special Olympics South Dakota booth set up for those who want to learn more or get involved.

"We're very excited and look forward to the game this year, and coming back next year," Briggs said. "Eventually, the goal is to move to a full game. We hope to grow the program and get all sorts of universities across the state involved."

Follow @eballard_aan on Twitter.

If you go

--Northern State University vs. Augustana University.

--Wachs Arena in the Barnett Center.

--Women's game: 4 p.m. today.

--Men's game: 6 p.m. today.


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