Unified Champions Club inclusive sports program gives outlet to locals - part 2
WATERVILLE, Maine (WABI) - We featured Kristian, a local sports enthusiast, who now has an opportunity to play unified sports as an adult in part one of our series. In part two of our series we showcase the program he is a part of...
“I played unified in Abu Dhabi for Special Olympics World Games,” says Special Olympics Maine Board of Directors and Alfond Youth Center Wellness Director Sawyer Boulette, “and the experience! I came back to Maine. I was like holy smokes, this is something the athletes are missing after they graduate high school.”
Sawyer pitched the idea to the Head of Special Olympics International. He loved it! Unifed Champions Club presented by the Maine Masonic Charitible Foundation was born in Waterville.
“It’s the first one of its kind in the nation,” says Unified Champion Club Coordinator Erica Fredrick-Rock, “It’s a partnership between Special Olympics International, Boys and Girls Club of America, and we were lucky in getting the Maine Masonic Charitable Foundation’s help for really getting it up and going.”
“They donated about 100 thousand dollars,” says Skowhegan Chief of Police David Bucknam, “for a 2-year program.”
The impact unified sports has had, in Maine, has been tremendous.
“In such a divisive time we are going through,” says UMaine head men’s basketball coach Richard Barron, “this is something everybody can get behind.”
“Having teammates, having someone you can rely on is such a great feeling,” says Kristian’s shooting partner and former UMaine men’s basketball player Ilija Stojiljkovic, “why not try to instill that in everybody. "
Just like the impact the Unified Champions Club has already had on both athletes, and partners. Like Skowhegan Chief of Police David Bucknam.
“6 cups of espresso. I have a big tall glass and that is what I sip on until 10 in the morning,” says Bucknam, “doesn’t even come close to the energy level Kristian has. So, when I get around him it is like a breathe of fresh air. I am re-motivated.”
“I feel that every single time I have a program going on with my athletes,” says Fredrick-Rock.
The pandemic has stopped Special Olympics events and in order to try to keep athletes active...
“They are big basketball fans,” says Erica “And obviously we can’t play basketball right now.”
A fundraising challenge idea.
“From the Elks Hoop Shoots from when I was younger,” says Fredrick-Rock, “We can put 2 people at a basket, they can shoot, they can challenge each other.”
“50 free throws per competitor, per athlete,” says Bucknam, “My good partner Kristian benched me for some super athlete.”
“I am ready for it on August the 8th,” says unified sports athlete Kristian Joliat, “we will be able to do our best.”
Kristian has raised almost 3000 dollars for the event to help the program.
“I would like to thank the sponsors that donated,” Kristian says.
They hope it will help the thriving program continue to be the benchmark for something bigger.
“Expand nationally,” says Sawyer, “Everywhere, yeah!”
Copyright 2020 WABI. All rights reserved.