The following is a guest post from Herley Pellew, Manager of Special Olympics Florida’s Project UNIFY.
Special Olympics Florida Fall Classic is the culminating celebration and competition for athletes, partners, and coaches participating in bowling, cheerleading, gymnastics, powerlifting, softball, and unified flag football. Fall Classic takes place at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex November 13th-14th. With the additions of cheerleading and flag football to this year’s festivities, 2015 Fall Classic will have over 2,200 total athletes, partners, and coaches attending and sets itself up to be the biggest one yet. Aside from the numerous competitions simultaneously taking place, Healthy Athletes will also be conducting health screenings for all participants. Healthy Athletes will be able to conduct screenings in all six disciplines due to the generosity of over 450 health professional volunteering for this event. Screenings will be conducted in Fun Fitness, Fit, Feet, Healthy Hearing, Heathy Promotions, Opening Eyes, and Special Smiles.
Project UNIFY and YAP (Young Athletes Program), two programs with the shared goal of promoting inclusion through sports, will also be showcased during Fall Classic as well. Project Unify will host its first Special Olympics College Bowl in unified flag football. The SO College Bowl includes unified partners from University of Florida, Florida State University, University of Miami, and Florida International University who will partner up with athletes from Alachua, Leon, Broward, and Miami-Dade Counties to play in this event. By creating teams of athletes with and without intellectual disabilities, the SO College Bowl uses the concept of Special Olympics
Unified Sports®, where people with and without intellectual disabilities play on the same team, as a way to break down stereotypes leading to a quick path of friendship and understanding.
Young Athletes will host a festival which will contain demonstrations of all the skills taught and learned in the program, targeting children ages 2 – 7 years old. These athletes will show off their athletic prowess in trapping, catching, tossing, throwing, striking, and kicking. YAP will also feature a Strider Adventure Zone teaching the fundamentals of balancing on a two wheel bike, Little Linksters Golf Fundamental Station teaching golf skills, and Olympic Town Activities featuring various arts & craft and games for athletes and their peers.
With everything taking place at Fall Classic, Special Olympics Florida will have athletes ranging from 2 years old to 77 years old competing and showcasing the organization’s eagerness to welcome all those with a desire to participate, compete and support inclusion.
Inclusive competition opportunities like Fall Classic extend beyond the weekend. Upon the conclusion of Fall Classic, Project UNIFY will host a Unified Sports Rivalry Series game between University of Florida and Florida State University. This game mirrors the very popular Florida vs Florida college rivalry game and will be hosted by the University of Florida taking place November 22nd at 2pm on the Southwest Recreation Field. Teams are comprised of students from the both universities and local Special Olympics athletes. Once again, the goal of the Unified Sports Rivalry Series is to pair together students with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team, breaking down stereotypes, and bringing the power of unified sports to the college environment as we raise awareness and foster even greater inclusion on campus.