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Central Alberta students unite over Special Olympics unified sport

Eckville high school hosted over 30 students from across six communities
West Central High School students attended the unified sport event. From left Scarlet Jones, Sydney Eklund, Julia Tchir and Blake Wedman. Reeti Meenakshi Rohilla / Sylvan Lake News

Central Alberta students bonded over a Special Olympics unified sport event held at the Eckville Junior Senior High School on May 5.

Aiming at social inclusion, the unified sports program pairs athletes with and without intellectual disabilities for competitive and recreational games.

Over 40 high school students from Eckville, Ponoka, Lacombe, Spruce View, Caroline, Rocky Mountain House and Alix attended the event.

“It’s been absolutely amazing for the students,” said school athletic director and physical education teacher Cody Magneson.

While all equipment required for the sport was donated by the Alberta Schools’ Athletic Association (ASAA) about three years ago, the event was put on hold due to COVID-19.

“It’s fun and hard at the same time,” said Eckville high school Grade 12 student Scarlet Jones.

Jones shared her excitement to learn a new sport and looks forward to playing it again.

Each participant was awarded a medal with the top three winners of the competitive division bringing home a plaque of achievement.

“I think sports are so beneficial for everyone,” said ASAA unified coordinator Emily Lines. “Sports are a big part of our society. So, giving everyone a chance to have a sport to get into … is important.”

Lines hopes to familiarize communities with the interactive sport.

“I think this has been so successful and fun. I am just so excited to see where it can go from here,” Lines said.

The unified equipment is light and portable, making it easy to store. The sport can be played both indoors and outdoors.

ASAA works to improve and expand the quality, opportunity and accessibility of sports to individuals with an intellectual disabilities.