Unified Champions Game


Katelynn Hexamer

Everyone that Participated!

Katelynn Hexamer, Staff Photographer/Writer

On December 12, 2019, Mt Vernon Middle School hosted a Unified Champions basketball game. Many people showed up to the game to cheer the teams on. Students from the middle and high school Essential Skills classes as well as members of the 8th grade boys’ basketball team and the 7th and 8th grade cheer teams made up the teams for this Unified Champions game.

According to the Special Olympics website this program, “systematically promotes social inclusion by bringing together young people with and without intellectual disabilities utilizing three components: Special Olympics Unified Sports®, Inclusive Youth Leadership, and Whole-School Engagement.”

Players from the Essential Skills classes were paired with a basketball or cheer team student. During the game, the basketball and cheer team students pushed their partners in wheelchairs, held their hands up and down the court, made baskets for them when needed, and encouraged them to keep trying.

Tyler Hexamer, 8, has many reasons why he enjoyed playing in the lifetime opportunity event. 

“ I enjoyed being apart of the Unified Champions game because of just seeing their excitement when they are out there playing basketball. I also enjoy when one of them scores and just a big smile on their face and everybody’s faces after them scoring the basket. I was paired up with Ella during the game and it was very fun because Ella is just a bundle of joy and happy all the time. She got really happy when she saw all of the people cheering for her when she scored, but it was a very fun experience with her out there on the court. Stuff I got out of it was that anybody can do something even with a disability that affects their life no matter how critical it is that they still can do what people without disability ́s can do.”

Adam Koon, 8, agreed with Hexamer. 

“It was a great moment for everyone in the gym.  I got to push Lincoln which I was scared at first, but then basketball just took over. It was a great experience because I learned something from those kids. They taught me that missing doesn’t matter-keep shooting. They never put their head down or got upset when they missed because they didn’t care.  They knew they were going to shoot the next one and if they missed, they just kept shooting.”

Even though coaches were not allowed to play, Coach Slentz enjoyed the game by being a referee

“My favorite part of this event is watching all of the students work together and seeing the crowd go crazy,” said Coach Slentz. “There’s a really exciting energy on the court during the game. This was our second year for the Unified Champions basketball game, and seeing the school community support this event means a lot to everyone involved. 

Coach Slentz continued, “My role as the referee was more of a coach than referee that way I could help out if needed. I really didn’t have to do much. The kids all shared the ball and well together.”

For those playing the game, it was a life changing event, and it could change your life too. Unified Champions events are opportunities for all MVHS and MVMS students to get involved and volunteer.