Mishawaka students celebrate Special Olympics Unified Champions Day

Published: May. 16, 2023 at 6:46 PM EDT|Updated: May. 17, 2023 at 4:50 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

MISHAWAKA, Ind. (WNDU) — In the famous words of Ben Franklin, you can do anything you set your mind to—and for over 100 Mishawaka student-athletes from seven elementary schools and John Young Middle School, that’s exactly what they’ve done.

For months, these students have practiced for this very day: The annual Special Olympics Unified Champions Day.

“All of my friends are here supporting me and helping me out,” said student competitor Isabella Huston. “My mom and my dad—they always help me out.”

Through the Indiana Unified Champion Schools Program, students with intellectual disabilities and their general education peers participated in track meets, hurdles, running, softball throws, long jumps, and an obstacle course!

It’s something event organizers say is a great opportunity for students with disabilities who may not be able to participate in competitive sports.

“We have an inclusive mindset. So, by doing events like this, everyone is included of all abilities,” said Barb Michalos, a Director of Exceptional Learners for the School City of Mishawaka. “In our world and in Special Olympics, we’d like to make a world that is more inclusive.”

With Mishawaka schools hosting this for the 5th year, there has been nothing but smiles.

“To see the smiles on their faces when they go through the finish line. They hear their names announced with how they finished,” said Mishawaka Schools Superintendent Theodore Stevens. “It’s just a good time had by all.”

“Can I make up a word?—Smile-a-thon!” exclaimed U93 radio host Big Perm. “Everybody’s got smiles. Today is the Olympics to them! This is an amazing day. We’re doing all kinds of fun sports here.”

And although today’s events included the ribbons and the camaraderie, some say in the end, it’s all about the friends made along the way.

“It’s not about if you win or not, or lose, it’s about the steps you make along the way, the lessons you learn and the friends you make,” said student competitor Wyatt Habel.