Special Olympics New York Launches Campaign to Attract New Unified Champion Schools

New York City, NY – Special Olympics New York has launched a campaign to attract new Unified Champion Schools in New York City. The campaign aims to empower parents and educators to advocate for bringing Unified Sports to their school, using the tagline: If you don’t have this at your school, you should!

The launch video and tools for advocates can be viewed HERE. Media wishing to broadcast the video can download it HERE.

In a Unified Champion School, students with and without intellectual disabilities play on the same sports team. They also lead events and activities throughout the year that encourage all students to practice and value inclusion. At approximately 250 Unified Champion Schools statewide, the program is reducing bullying and teasing, overturning negative stereotypes and spurring healthy social interactions.

“Unified is more than a sports league – it’s a way of life,” said Special Olympics New York President and CEO Stacey Hengsterman. “Together as teammates in every sense, students who play unified are creating school environments where inclusion, tolerance and acceptance of all students is the rule and not the exception. Ask any of our players, coaches or school leaders and they’ll tell you – if you don’t have this at your school, you should!”

The campaign will initially target New York City parents and administrators because only a small fraction of current Unified Champion Schools are downstate, and that’s where students need it the most.

“Even before COVID-19, students in special education classes in the metro area could go the whole school year without ever interacting with their typical peers in a school setting, let alone playing sports together,” Hengsterman added. “The Unified Generation is changing that.”

“I can’t say enough about the Special Olympics Unified Champion School program,” said Joe Stewart, physical education teacher and coach at 721M in Manhattan. “We’ve experienced such a powerful transformation since we started playing unified. Athletes who never dreamed of wearing a school sports uniform are confident team leaders. Students with and without disabilities are spending time together in and out of school. Every school in the city should work to be a Unified Champion School.”

“We are more than teammates. We are family,” said Genesis Duran, a student at Harvest Collegiate High School in New York City. “Being a part of the City Hawks has been the highlight of my time in high school. I know I speak for the entire team when I say that being accepted and included has made us fierce competitors and made our school a better place.”

Video assets used in the campaign were created, developed and placed in partnership with volunteers from Google and Instanteaser, and supported by grant funding from the Heckscher Foundation. View the campaign at: https://www.specialolympics-ny.org/unifiedinyourschool/.

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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 about 250 schools statewide to offer Unified Sports, where students with and without disabilities compete as teammates. All Special Olympics New York programs are offered at no cost to athletes, their families or caregivers. The organization has earned the Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar.com, making it one of the most trusted charities in the business nationally. For additional information about Special Olympics New York, to learn more about getting involved, or to make a donation, visit www.specialolympicsNY.org.

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