New School Year Brings Expansion of Special Olympics Unified Bocce in Western New York

Buffalo, NY – Students with and without disabilities in Western New York have benefitted so much from the Special Olympics New York Unified Champion Schools program over the years that 12 schools are now playing a third sport: Unified Bocce.

In Unified Sports, people with and without disabilities train and compete as teammates. Inclusive Youth Leadership roles are also established at school, giving students opportunities to recruit, fundraise, and attend social engagements with their peers. Taken together, the inclusive sports and social experiences have led to enhanced school climates throughout the country where there is less bullying, improved academic outcomes and a greater appreciation of the abilities of all students.

“The power of Unified Sports is unparalleled,” said Special Olympics New York President and CEO Stacey Hengsterman. “Students make friends they may otherwise never get the chance to meet. They compete as equals with their peers cheering their teams from the sidelines. This unified generation is showing us all what true inclusion looks like and why it’s important.”

Four Unified Champion Schools added bocce last year: Dunkirk, Fredonia, Cheektowaga, and Iroquois. They inspired eight new schools to join them this year: Lackawanna, Orchard Park, Springville, Sweet Home, Cattaraugus Little Valley, Cassadaga, Pine Valley, and Silver Creek.

To learn more about Unified Sports, click here. For those interested in bringing Unified to their schools, click here.