Special Olympics Unified Sports bring athletes both with and without intellectual disabilities together on the same field of play. Bemidji High School is one of their Unified Champion Schools, fielding a Unified basketball team. Wednesday night, the Lumberjacks hosted their second annual Unified basketball game against Menahga, another Unified Champion School.
While the BHS gymnasium has seen its fair share of rowdy crowds, last night’s might have been the rowdiest of them all. Members of both communities, including athletes from Bemidji State, packed themselves into the BHS fieldhouse and were treated to a 58-57 comeback victory from Menahga, but the scoreboard was far from the biggest concern amongst the players.
“The game of basketball itself, it doesn’t matter if you have won the game, it matters how much effort you have put in,” said Bemidji Unified student-athlete William Duncan. “To show support to all the others. Because there is no such things as winning or losing, there are only opportunities and sportsmanship.”
“I’ve never seen the gym this fall except for last year,” said Bemidji Unified student-athlete Asher Geller. “Last year was awesome, but this year…I just couldn’t believe how many people came. That just shows how much the community really supports the Unified team and the Unified idea.”
The Special Olympics has more than 8,300 Unified Champion Schools across the country and has a goal of reaching 10,000 by the end of the year.