Special Olympics Florida

Joseph and Casey Wigand

Coaches, Polk County

In middle school, I was part of one of the very first Unified Sports teams in Broward County. I continued to volunteer throughout high school and when I went off to college, I continued to volunteer for Special Olympics through events and Special Olympics Florida State Games.

Upon graduating, I moved to Boston and became involved in Special Olympics Massachusetts, where I was a Unified partner for flag football, basketball, volleyball, and softball. When I moved back to Florida, I started teaching at Ridge Community High School and began a Special Olympics Unified program with my wife, Casey. In four years, the program at Ridge Community High School has grown from a volleyball team with 8 athletes to a program that has 4 sports and has 20 athletes.

When we started the Unified program here at Ridge Community High School, we wanted to promote inclusion and recognition of our ESE students. It is important for them to gain awareness by the kids not contained in ESE classes and being able to show what they are capable of.

Special Olympics Unified Sports has changed my life and I hope others will get involved in the experience. Do it.  You will never regret seeing the growth from watching the athletes and Unified partners interacting.

The growth that I have seen from each of my students that participate is amazing. When I started, I had a student who had difficulties at home. Now, he went to Abu Dhabi for World Games and giving interviews to the school board on his experiences in Special Olympics.”