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Blog Posts By Special Olympics Project UNIFY
Danielle Liebl, a former Special Olympics Project UNIFY National Youth Activation Committee Member from Minnesota, recently established her own non-profit - DIFFERbilities Experience. An extraordinary individual, Danielle has dedicated her life to make a difference for people with intellectual and cognitive disabilities.
The following blog post was written by Danielle for the DIFFERbilities Experience Blog and shared here with permission.
At the age of six years old, I can recall my mom and dad asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I always responded, “An orthopedic surgeon at Gillette.” You may be wondering how on earth does a six year old know what an orthopedic surgeon is? When you have cerebral palsy, not only do you see a lot of doctors, you also become very familiar with their titles. At the age of six, my primary doctor was an orthopedic surgeon and I thought he was the coolest! This dream of being an orthopedic surgeon lasted until sophomore year in high school, when biology class was required and I found out it is not my cup of tea. I believe my parents let out a huge sigh of relief when they realized there would be no lawsuits in the future. They always feared that I would have a spasm and accidentally put someone’s femur bone in their rib cage.
Although I realized that a career as a surgeon may not be for me, I still knew I wanted to help people with intellectual and cognitive disabilities. I decided instead of forcing myself to like biology, I should focus on something I was passionate. In high school I was very involved in Special Olympics. Through this tremendous organization, I was able to find my voice, my confidence and my passion. No longer was I the girl with cerebral palsy; instead, I was a respected human being ...
By Kaitlyn Smith
Kaitlyn Smith served three years on the Project UNIFY National Youth Activation Committee and she is a current student at the University of Northern Colorado. Kaitlyn has been involved with Special Olympics for eight years and is an advocate for inclusion and acceptance for all.
On Thursday July 31st, my Special Olympics adventures took me to a new place: The White House.
President Obama and the First Lady graciously offered to host a dinner in Celebration of the Special Olympics Unified Generation, and I was beyond honored and humbled to be invited to take part in the celebration. Throughout the evening I had the opportunity to speak with amazing individuals, such as President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, Jordin Sparks, Jason Derulo, Michelle Kwan, Maria Shriver, constituents from ESPN and Coke, and the list goes on. We were served an immaculate meal, and the evening ended with an amazing private performance by Katy Perry. ...
By Morgan Lang, Unified Partner from Special Olympics Maryland
Morgan, a high school student in Calvert County MD, recently competed in unified basketball at the Special Olympics USA Game in New Jersey. Dedicated to promoting social inclusion through shared sports training and competition experiences, Unified Sports joins people with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team. It was inspired by a simple principle: training together and playing together is a quick path to friendship and understanding. The teams are comprised of similar age and ability matching of unified partners (individuals without intellectual disabilities) and Special Olympics athletes (individuals with intellectual disabilities). Click here to learn more about Unified Sports.
Below is a poem Morgan wrote about being a unified partner and how the Special Olympics athletes have impacted her life. ...
By Terry Pickeral, Project UNIFY Senior Consultant
Through my work with Special Olympics Project UNIFY, I recently had the privilege of visiting elementary, middle and high schools throughout the nation. I was able to see how they integrate social inclusion and the impact they make on all students. The corresponding Social Inclusion Lessons From the Field report can be found by clicking here.
One of the unique characteristics of Special Olympics Project UNIFY is a focus on creating socially inclusive schools by ensuring all students are encouraged and supported to be “agents of change” where all students are capable of being leaders. All students deserve the opportunity to experience an engaging school and community environment that recognizes their gifts and shares them with others. ...
By Rebecca Ralston, Manager of Youth Leadership
On Tuesday, March 25, Special Olympics Project UNIFY staff, along with youth leaders and educators from across the country, presented to the Department of Education on the power and growth of Project UNIFY over the last year. Special Olympics athlete and youth leader Kabir Robinson from Special Olympics Washington joined Delaware youth leader Connor Moore and educators Erin Trzcinski and Tom Ledcke, from Delaware and Washington, respectively, to share their personal experiences with Project UNIFY.
Kabir’s impactful remarks are below, and you can watch the entire presentation here.
Hi everyone. My name is Kabir Robinson. I live in Seattle, Washington. I am a member of the National Youth Activation Committee. I have been involved with Special Olympics for 3 to 4 years. I joined because I just want to be treated equally and be happy. I also want to be a better leader in sports. ...
By Lauren Hertzog
Lauren, an 18 year old, wrote this essay for her brother David, a Special Olympics athlete. This is an empowering story about one sibling’s experience and the difference her brother has made in her life.
It’s funny how the length of the bus you ride has the ability to define you as a person. Personally, I rode the regular sized bus, the one the “normal” students rode to school. However, there was another bus that happened to stop at my house every weekday morning. The short bus, "the retard racer", the bus that was transportation for my brother. Yes, my brother rode the short bus and will forever be the root of some kid’s immature joke. Or even worse, the root of some adult’s joke. My brother is defined by his transportation to school. They look past his ability to smile while making his bed every morning, or him surviving five open heart surgeries before the age of five, or his ability to say “Luve you all.” It’s all looked past because of society’s standards of perfection. ...
By Soeren Palumbo, Co-Founder, SO College and the Spread the Word to End the Word Campaign
Special Olympics Project UNIFY has a transition program called SO College, which aims to bring together college students and individuals with intellectual disabilities to create a campus and community of inclusion and acceptance.
Outlined against a blue-gray November sky in the beating heart of the Southeastern Conference, two teams took to a Tuscaloosa field Saturday. The brass echoes of Yea Alabama faded with the cheers of the crowd, fans and band drawing breath in anticipation. Before them, crimson red met royal purple in athletic tableau.
Here, college football is a civic – if not always civil – religion. “Roll Tide” and “Geaux Tigers” are more than team cheers; they are salutations, exclamations, sometimes even punctuations. There are no moral victories here. Athletic competition of young men and women, joined by the collective will of aptly-termed “fan nations,” determine the bragging rights of the coming winter, spring, and summer. ...
By Susie Doyens, Sargent Shriver Global Messenger
We’re continuing with our amazing stories from the new book, Stand Up! 75 Young Activists who Rock the World and How You Can, Too! from John Schlimm. You can read all about the book here.
I was born with Down syndrome. It is typical for people with Down syndrome to have intellectual disabilities and sort of look alike.
Most of my friends with Down syndrome are outgoing. They talk a lot and mix well with other people. I’m not naturally as outgoing or comfortable looking at other people or talking with them.
I have always been scared and shy. I used to never really talk. Ever. I wrote notes instead. People would talk to me and it made me feel panicky and uncomfortable. I never looked at people’s faces, only their shoes. I was afraid if I said something wrong, people would laugh at me. ...
Special Olympics youth and athlete leaders were recently featured in a new book called Stand Up! 75 Young Activists Who Rock the World and How You Can Too! from John Schlimm. You can read all about the full book here, but we also wanted to share some of the Special Olympics stories featured in the book. Stay tuned over the next few weeks to read these inspiring stories of youth changing the world through Special Olympics. And if you’re interested, you can purchase Stand Up! online.
Our first amazing story comes from youth leaders Danielle Liebl and Kaitlyn Smith… a story of true friendship! This is just a small preview, so make sure to check out the book for the full story.
The summer of 2010 is a summer that will always be remembered by the both of us. It was a summer of growth, new beginnings and cherished memories, but most importantly, it was the summer our lives intersected for the first time. That summer, Special Olympics hosted the 2010 National Youth Activation Summit in Omaha, Nebraska, which both of us attended.
Danielle was an intern while Kaitlyn participated as a Unified Partner with her friend Kathleen. We briefly met at the summit when Danielle went up to Kaitlyn’s Partner, Kathleen, to wish her a happy birthday. Little did we know that we had each just met a lifelong friend. Later that year, Kaitlyn joined Special Olympics’ National Youth Activation Committee, in which Danielle was already a member. At our first meeting in Washington, D.C., we instantly bonded over our uncontrollable laughter, similar sarcasm and sense of humor.
Our friendship was growing, and our friendship meant the world to the both of us. The comfort to be ourselves when we were around each other was proof that we were perfect friends. We never felt compelled to try to ...
By Haylie Bernacki, Specialist of Unified Sports School and College Growth, Special Olympics North America Project UNIFY
For years, a main initiative within Special Olympics Project UNIFY schools and State Programs has been the expansion of Unified Sports, which combines individuals with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team. It was inspired by a simple principle: training together and playing together is a quick path to friendship and understanding. Project UNIFY State Program staff are expanding relationships with state interscholastic associations to increase the credibility, reach, and depth of Unified Sports throughout school districts across the country. The hope is that every child will be able to play on a school sports team, regardless of their ability level. ...
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