October 18, 2022 – Collinsville Community Unit School District #10 Kahok Special Olympics Athletes participated in their first “unified” competition when Illinois Special Olympics Region J hosted its first Unified Bowling event at St. Clair Bowl on Sunday, October 16, 2022.
According to the Special Olympics website:
“Special Olympics is 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
In Unified Sports, teams are made up of people of similar age and ability. That makes practices more fun and games more challenging and exciting for all. Having sport in common is just one more way that preconceptions and false ideas are swept away.”
Members of Collinsville High School’s Kahok Krazies spirit group volunteered to be unified partners with the Kahok Special Olympics Bowlers for the competition.
Collinsville had 5 unified groups and 2 single bowlers participate. The Kahok unified partner pairs were:
Athlete: Mckenna Bair Unified Partner: Adelyn Johnson
Athlete: Olivia Gill Unified Partner: Lainey Bolandis
Athlete: Kaitlyn Tipton Unified Partner: Megan Janson
Athlete: Brandon McCullar Unified Partner: Gracie Smith
Athlete: Shawn Poindexter Unified Partner: Lucas Geisen
Single Bowler Athlete: Bethany McCullar took silver
Single Bowler Athlete: Brian McCullar took 4th place
“The unified event was the best experience I’ve had in my 7 years of coaching Special Olympics,” said Coach Lynn Vermeiren, “It was great to see students with intellectual disabilities working alongside students without intellectual disabilities on the same team. These types of events lead to understanding and friendship. Parents of both sets of students commented on what a meaningful experience this was for their child. I’m very proud of these Kahoks!”
Vermerien see the Kahoks competing in more Unified Sports, “Unified events lead to more inclusion of students with disabilities. It improves social skills and acceptance for all that are involved. It promotes teamwork, communication, friendship, and hopefully, lasting memories for those involved.”
The October 6 Region J event was the biggest Unified Bowling event in the State of Illinois.