On Tuesday, March 19 Milford High School hosted the 2013 Delaware Special Olympics Basketball Skills Competition. More than 1,500 Special Olympics Delaware athletes at all levels across the state took place in the competition over a 15-day period. At the competition, athletes participated individually and as a team with their Unified Partners, peers without disabilities, in the three basic skills of basketball: dribbling, passing and shooting.
Milford High School students involved in Project UNIFY volunteered at Tuesday’s event as they led athletes though the competition and presented them with medals. Project UNIFY is a national project funded by the U.S. Department of Education aimed at creating communities through school that foster respect, dignity and advocacy for people with intellectual disabilities. The project utilizes the programs and initiatives of Special Olympics.
“It’s an exciting time of year for anyone playing basketball,” said Jon Buzby, spokesperson for Special Olympics Delaware, “and for our athletes it is no different. It’s their opportunity to show off their basketball talents through skills events they’ve been practicing for the past 10 weeks. Our athletes look forward to their shining moment.”
Special Olympics Delaware is made up of over 3,500 athletes participating in over 100 statewide programs. The organization will have 60 teams competing in this year’s team tournaments and a total of more than 1,500 athletes and Unified partners participating in all events.
Athlete Kevin Kimbrough-Roach and Unified Partner Alex Merger were one pair out of several competing on Tuesday. Now in fourth grade, Kevin and Alex have been friends since the first grade and continue to learn from each other.
“I like working with [Alex] because he’s nice,” commented Kevin. “I learned how to be confident from him because before we met I was not.”
“I like to play basketball with [Kevin] because we both know a lot about it and we are very competitive,” commented Alex. “He also showed me how to shoot a layup.”
The SODE Basketball Tournament was a huge success, filling the Milford High School gym with athletes, Unified Partners and families watching the excitement. Special Olympics Delaware hopes that introducing children to the Special Olympics programs at an early age will foster the lifelong ideals of sharing, understanding and friendship.
“It is really a great thing to see the students with disabilities that cannot play traditional sports, given a chance to participate,” commented Special Olympics Delaware Kent County Director, David Manwiller. “Just look at the smiles on their faces as they get to be a part of this event.”