The Taft Foundation Supports Expansion of Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools & Young Athletes Programs in New York City

New York City, NYThe Taft Foundation recently awarded a $100,000 grant to Special Olympics New York to support the expansion of two signature programs that are creating inclusive schools and communities for the next generation in New York City.

Unified Champion Schools promotes social inclusion by bringing students with and without intellectual disabilities together on interscholastic sports teams, parallel to a varsity or junior varsity program. Participating schools incorporate a youth leadership model that empowers students who play Unified to also engage the entire school community in inclusive activities. The program leads to reduced bullying, healthy interactions and overturned negative stereotypes.

The Special Olympics New York Young Athletes program provides inclusive play opportunities for children of all abilities, ages 2 to 7. It engages children with and without intellectual disabilities in activities important to mental and physical development, such as running, balance, and catching, while also teaching inclusion at a young age.

“These two programs are defining the future of our schools and communities, bringing children and youth together as equals in sports and in life,” said Stacey Hengsterman, president and CEO of Special Olympics New York. “While demand for Unified Champion Schools and Young Athletes is at an all-time high statewide, the need for growth is especially prevalent in New York City, where youth with intellectual disabilities often remain segregated from their typical peers. Thanks to The Taft Foundation, Special Olympics New York is in a stronger position to address a dire need for both programs in the city.”

For every student playing Unified in school, there are more than 100 students across the state who do not. With The Taft Foundation grant, Special Olympics New York aims to add eight or more new Unified Champion Schools and establish 10 or more new Young Athletes programs throughout the five boroughs.

Learn more about Special Olympics New York’s Unified Sports and Young Athletes programs at www.specialolympicsNY.org.


About Special Olympics New York

Special Olympics New York is the largest state chapter in the country, serving more than 68,000 athletes across New York with year-round sports training, athletic competition, and health screenings. The organization also partners with more than 220 schools statewide to offer Unified Sports. All Special Olympics New York programs are offered at no cost to athletes, their families or caregivers. For additional information about Special Olympics New York, to learn more about getting involved, or to make a donation, visit www.specialolympicsNY.org.