Mike Baude and Courtney Mason participate in unified basketball through the Special Olympics Maine Unified Champion Club at the Alfond Youth & Community Center last January in Waterville. Submitted photo

AUGUSTA — The Kennebec Valley YMCA, in partnership with Special Olympics Maine, is providing new opportunities to people with intellectual disabilities through unified sports.

Special Olympics Maine Unified Champion Clubs is dedicated to promoting social inclusion by providing people with and without intellectual disabilities the opportunity to play on the same team through shared recreational sports and activities. Playing and competing together creates a quick path to friendships and understanding, according to a news release from Sawyer Boulette, Special Olympics Maine Unified Champion Clubs director.

The club at the Kennebec Valley YMCA  (31 Union St. in Augusta) is a free ongoing program that will cater to adults. The initiative aims to fill the need in the community as part of the YMCA’s “for all” mission to promote the health and well-being of individuals, families, and communities. The first program is scheduled to begin Friday, Jan. 27, and includes a six-week session of Unified Cornhole.

Special Olympics Maine first launched the program at the Boys & Girls Club & YMCA of Greater Waterville at the Alfond Youth & Community Center in 2019. Simultaneously, Susan Scacchi, executive director of the Maine Masonic Charitable Foundation, was searching for an avenue to spread the Masons’ culture of volunteerism and community building across Maine in an impactful way. The partnership between Special Olympics Maine, the YMCA and the Maine Masonic Charitable Foundation was established to ensure ongoing viability.

“We are all individuals, with unique hopes, dreams and challenges, but it is when we come together as a community where the possibilities are endless. The Maine Masonic Charitable Foundation is proud to be a catalyst in making Maine communities stronger and more inclusive for all,” said Scacchi.

Unified Sports has been a catalyst for change in Maine school districts since 2008. The unified strategy transforms school and community environments by inspiring people to open their minds, accept and include people with intellectual disabilities and anyone who is perceived as different. “They are no longer sitting on the sidelines. Instead, they are being seen as members of the community.” said Boulette.

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The Special Olympics Maine Unified Champion Club focuses on building an inclusive climate that emphasizes collaboration, engagement, and mutual respect for all people in the community regardless of their abilities.

“We are beyond excited about the expansion of unified sports into community organizations like the YMCA across the state,” said Boulette. Along with the KV YMCA, Special Olympics Maine Unified Champion Clubs have been launched at the Bath Area Family YMCA, The Down East Family YMCA, and the Alfond Youth & Community Center.

For more information, visit kvymca.org or Special Olympics Maine at  somaine.org. To get involved as an athlete or volunteer, email Paul Sveum, Unified Champion Club director, at [email protected], or Boulette at [email protected].

 

 

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