Guest Blog: The Power of Unified Sports

Luke Murray is a student and Unified Sports partner at Horseheads High School. Luke wrote a college essay about his experience playing Unified, and he and his coach wanted to share it with our community. Read it below, and enjoy!

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It can’t be denied that certain individuals can greatly impact the lives of others based on their experience and intuition. While we are all walking different paths on the journey of life, we look to each other for guidance and advice. We have the power to make a big impact and difference in the lives of others. I am forever changed by my experience and friendships I have gained through Unified Sports.

I am proud to be a founding member of our Unified basketball team. Boys and girls, with and without intellectual and physical disabilities, began playing together on the same team for the first time in our school history. We train together and compete together in games against other schools in our area. I am proud to be a partner with this inclusive program.

As a partner, I am a shoulder to lean on, an encouraging friend, and a compassionate listener. We are not in the same classes, our lives have been different, and opportunities not nearly the same, but this game is what is bonding us.

Two years ago, I noticed that some kids on the team did not have proper shoes that they could wear during practices and games, causing them to have to wear borrowed shoes or shoes that were too big or small. In fact, during one of our games, a spectator in the stands removed his shoes so that a player on our team could wear his during the game. After watching this, I looked around and saw that many of my teammates were wearing very worn out, old, unsafe shoes and hardly anyone had “basketball shoes.” Many of the kids on the team just can’t afford to buy new shoes.

I began a letter writing campaign to raise money for equipment for the upcoming season. I was able to raise enough money from local business donations to purchase the entire team new shoes, bags, and warmups. Being able to achieve this goal for my team is one of the greatest feelings I have ever experienced, knowing that I, one person, could help my teammates in such a big way felt so good. This program has brought me to the realization that my future goals need to include making a positive impact on my community.

This year I have been selected the president of the Youth Activation Committee for Unified Sports, after serving as Vice President for the past three years. I have attended the youth summit each year and enjoy sharing how our program has impacted our school and community in such a positive way. I help raise awareness and promote inclusiveness and acceptance. Not only has this program had a major impact on our community but being a part of the Unified Basketball team and Y.A.C has had a positive impact on me. Seeing my teammates in the hallway, at practice, or during games is a highlight of my day. They make me smile and lift me up as much as I hope to lift them up.

Although we were unable to play this past season due to COVID, I was aware of the hardships that some of my peers may be facing during this time. I designed a mask with the help of a local sporting goods company, and our committee sold it to members of our community, raising over $800 as well as mask donations for students in need.

Looking to the future, I hope to continue to be part of programs and opportunities that allow me to establish positive and diverse relationships. In the current state of the world, it is important, now more than ever, to be unified and inclusive, but most of all, kind. I plan to be part of that change.

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If you would like to bring the Unified movement to your school, please click here.

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