Students, Special Olympians come together to promote inclusion and community
Sept. 12, 2016, MADISON, Miss. — The Special Olympics Unified Sports Rivalry Series is back to unite athletes and fans alike in the inclusive Play Unified movement by pairing student partners with Special Olympics athletes on a mission to break down stereotypes and foster friendships and understanding.
Special Olympics Mississippi will kick off its 2016 season this Friday, September 16 at 6:30 p.m. when the Unified Tide of the University of Alabama visits the Unified Rebels of Ole Miss at the school’s Blackburn-McMurray Outdoor Sports Complex in Oxford. Fans can contribute donations to Special Olympics in honor of the Unified Rebels as part of the Fan Fundraising Challenge here.
“Special Olympics athletes are training now alongside students and preparing to take the field against the Unified Tide,” said Amanda Alpert, coordinator of intramural sports and sport clubs at the University of Mississippi. The Unified Rebels will hold a final practice before the matchup on September 14 from 7-8 p.m. at the Blackburn-McMurray fields.
Students at the University of Mississippi, working with Alpert, established the state’s first SO College program in 2015. Those students participate as partner athletes in the program’s unified flag football and basketball programs, which include Special Olympics athletes from communities across northern Mississippi.
The third annual Unified Egg Bowl between unified teams of Ole Miss and Mississippi State students with Special Olympics athletes will follow on Nov. 14 at 5 p.m. at the Mississippi State intramural fields in Starkville. Fans can donate in the name of their team and find additional information at UnifiedEggBowl.org.
During its first two years, fans of Ole Miss and MSU raised more than $15,000 to support Special Olympics Mississippi programs and athletes. The Unified Rebels lead the series 2-0.
Nationally, 24 National Collegiate Athletic Association teams from rival schools and universities across the country will compete in 13 intense Play Unified football competitions promoting inclusion and respect. The Unified Sports Rivalry Series brings the power of unified sports to the college environment to raise awareness and funds for Special Olympics. ESPN has served as the Global Presenting Sponsor of Unified Sports since 2013 and is the Presenting Sponsor of the Unified Sports Rivalry Series.
Special Olympics Mississippi became one of the first pilot programs after Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver visited Ellisville State School in Jones County in 1968, and was officially incorporated and recognized by the state in August 1975.
Today, Special Olympics Mississippi serves more than 4,000 athletes through a network of 17 multi-county areas and thousands of volunteers. Athletes compete locally at more than 50 events across the state, then statewide at the annual Summer Games and Fall Games. Athletes can then advance to the national and international levels of competition.
About Special Olympics Mississippi
Chartered in 1975, the mission of the Mississippi Chapter of Special Olympics is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for all children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in the sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics Athletes and their communities. For more information, please visit us at www.specialolympicsms.org.