The South Sound Unified Basketball season started January 12, 2019 as teams from North Thurston, Timberline, River Ridge, Yelm and Olympia competed. About 1.4 million people worldwide take part in Unified Sports, breaking down stereotypes about people with intellectual disabilities in a positive way, according to Special Olympics. Each team is made up of individuals with intellectual disabilities, the athletes, and without, the partners.

North Thurston High School’s Michela Laverty, leads the South Sound League, as she partners with managers from each of the other high schools. “The ultimate goal is to provide a venue for people with and without disabilities to compete together on a team,” says Laverty. North Thurston was the first school to start a Unified sports program in the Olympia area five years ago. Local athletes now compete in basketball games in the winter and soccer games in the spring.

Timberline High School Manager Renee Kilcup states her favorite part of her job at Timberline is her role with the Unified teams. Kilcup took Timberline’s basketball team to the USA Olympic state championship last year. “There was just so much growth in athletes and partners alike,” she shares, “in relationships, skills and empathy, which is heartwarming.” Kilcup and Olympia Unified Manager Antonio McClinon  helped partner with Laverty to start the south sound league.

Laverty and Kilcup believe there are plenty of places for the community to partner with their programs for those interested. “Community is about knowing each other, understanding each other and learning about each other,” states Kilcup. You can come support the athletes at games, provide snacks or help connect students with possible jobs.

“I’m just really proud of how far our program has come,” adds Laverty. “It gives the opportunity to bring people together.”  For more information on how you can support Unified sports in the South Sound area contact Michela Laverty at mlaverty1@nthurston.k12.wa.us.

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