Lee County Parks & Recreation brings new Special Olympics programs into schools

Lee County Parks & Recreation brings new Special Olympics programs into schools
Posted on 10/02/2018
Lee County Parks & Recreation brings new Special Olympics programs into schools

Written by Communications Director, Lee County Government

Lee County Parks & Recreation and School District of Lee County have announced a partnership to implement school-based Special Olympics programs.These programs begin with pre-kindergarten and continue through high school with the purpose to promote social inclusion and acceptance through shared sport training and competition experiences for individuals with and without disabilities.

The most exciting and most visual of these programs will be high school Unified Sports. Unified Sports provide opportunities for students with and without disabilities to participate in sports activities alongside one another in athletic completion. The special needs individuals, referred to as athletes, and the non-disabled individuals, referred to as partners, participate together on a team that competes against other high school teams. Training begins next month with games in November.

Every Lee County high school will have the opportunity for their athletes and partners to form a team and compete against other high schools from Lee County, Collier County or at the state level.

Schools can work to develop to become a Unified Champion School which includes whole school involvement. These are schools that not only have Unified Sports teams, but also demonstrate inclusive youth leadership to promote acceptance and inclusion. For example, they create whole school involvement activities such as campaigns to eliminate derogatory terms used for people with disabilities.

Lee County is proud to begin Unified Sports with two schools that will be Unified Champion Schools. These schools are Cypress Lake High School and North Fort Myers High School. Other schools will be given the opportunity to become Unified Champion Schools in the future.

These Unified Champion School teams will compete against teams from all over the state and in February have a chance to win a Unified Basketball State Championship. Last year, Immokalee High School was a State Champion in Unified Basketball.

Special Olympics Florida offers four Unified Sports that include basketball, flag football, soccer and track.
Lee County Parks & Recreation has hired Don Payne, a former ESE teacher and Athletic Director from the Lee County School District to support implementation of school-based Special Olympics programs.

“At this time, Lee County will start with Unified Basketball in the fall/winter and Unified Track in the winter/spring with the hopes to offer the other two sports in the future,” said Payne, Lee County Parks & Recreation Special Olympics coordinator.

For more information about the Special Olympics programs, contact Don Payne at 239-533-7518. For more information about Lee County Parks & Recreation locations, amenities and other special events, visit www.leeparks.org, call 239-533-7275 or email leeparks@leegov.com. Download the Come Discover Map online or grab one at any Lee County site.