Sports have a way of unifying people. Special Olympics Maine Unified Champion Clubs is dedicated to promoting social inclusion by pairing people with and without intellectual disabilities through shared recreational sports and activities.
Based on the simple principle that playing and competing together creates a quick path to friendships, inclusion, and understanding, Unified Sports has been a catalyst for change in Maine school districts since 2008. Now, Special Olympics Maine is partnering with community organizations, like YMCAs, across the state to expand unified sports.
The unified strategy transforms school and community environments by inspiring people to open their minds, accept, and include people with intellectual disabilities and anyone who is perceived as different. “They are no longer sitting on the sidelines. Instead, they are being seen as members of the community.” said Sawyer Boulette, director of Unified Champion Clubs at Special Olympics Maine.
“Having had many years of experience with Special Olympics Maine, I was eager to learn more about their expansion of unified sports into a community setting,” said Rob Wheeler, president of J. Edward Knight Insurance.
The free, ongoing year-round inclusive program is designed to provide additional healthy activities, and promote friendships and leadership opportunities while promoting inclusion. The Unified Champion Club focuses on building an inclusive climate that emphasizes collaboration, engagement, and mutual respect for all people in the community regardless of their abilities.
“What better way than joining forces with local YMCAs to accomplish this goal,” Wheeler said. “This program is essential for people of all abilities in our rural state and can be adapted to the needs of so many different communities.”
“We are beyond grateful for our recent contribution from J. Edward Knight Insurance,” Boulette said. “We look to community leaders like Rob and his team to ensure ongoing program viability, provide new opportunities for people with and without intellectual disabilities and their families and offer free programming to all participants. Our vision is to implement this program into communities across the state.”
The Special Olympics Maine Unified Champion Club can be found at the Alfond Youth & Community Center, Bath YMCA, Kennebec Valley YMCA, and the Down East Family YMCA.
“J. Edward Knight Insurance and our employees are happy to support this program and encourage other businesses around the state to join us,” Wheeler said.
To learn more about Special Olympics Maine Unified Champion Clubs, and how to get involved by becoming a participant, sponsor, or volunteer contact Sawyer Boulette via email at sawyerB@somaine.org.
Celebrating its 125th anniversary in 2023, J. Edward Knight offers auto, home, health, business, liability, and life insurance from six offices in Maine including Wiscasset, Boothbay Harbor, New Harbor, Vinalhaven, Rockland, and Bath. Go to Jedwardknight.com or call 1-800-898-4423 for more information.