Spreading Inclusion Through Sports


Dru Bloomfield

Special Olympics Unified Team Crossing the Finish Line CC BY 2.0

Established in 2016, Unified Sports at Pennridge serves the mission of “promoting social inclusion through shared sports training and competition experiences” in Pennridge High School. Pennridge Unified Sports offers two sports for participants, bocce in the fall and winter and track and field in the spring. The Pennridge Unified Bocce team is composed of two teams; the green team and the white team.

To play bocce, each team starts with four balls; those four balls will be a color designated to the team. At the start of each match, one team rolls the small ball called the pallino. The pallino must roll at least halfway down the court. The object of each team is to roll their four colored balls as close to the pallino as possible. The first team to receive 12 points wins the game however, the team must win by two. Each game typically consists of three rounds. According to the official rules of the Special Olympics, bocce scoring is determined by the following procedure, “At the end of each frame (when both teams have exhausted all balls), scoring will be determined as follows: points are awarded to the team whose balls are closer to the pallino than the closest ball of the opposing team, which can be determined by viewing or by mechanical measurements.”

This year the Pennridge White team has excelled and will be playing in the Special Olympics of Pennsylvania’s Interscholastic Unified Sports (IUS) Bocce Championship Game in Hershey, PA, due to their outstanding season. Parker Wood, a senior at Pennridge High School who has been involved in unified for the past three years and a player on the white team, has high hopes for states as he “looks forward to winning first place in states and advancing to national.” While the unified team has been successful on the courts, they also have been changing the hearts and minds of students involved in the club. Parker Wood described his greatest takeaway from unified as the importance of inclusion. He stated that he has “learned that when everyone is included, there’s more fun to be had,” which is why that is his greatest takeaway from the club.

Ty Porter, a Pennridge High School senior, chose to join unified because he was inspired by the members of the 2019-2020 year. He was inspired by them because they chose to do something bigger than themselves. Furthermore, Porter will now be studying Special Education at Penn State University all because he found a passion for learning, teaching, and helping those in unified.
Another way the Unified Club has contributed to the inclusion of kids in special education is through their campaign to “spread the word to end the word,” where they are advocating for the use of inclusive language in school and the community. Pennridge Unified has also raised a significant amount of money for the Special Olympics with its April Showers event. The April Showers event is an all-day event held in April at Pennridge High School in the bus lane. They have fire trucks come in and spray students as they run through the bus lane. The money is raised by students who choose to participate in April Showers through online fundraising. Their incentive to fundraise is that if they raise the designated amount of money by a specific date, they are awarded a T-shirt.

Unified at Pennridge provides a gateway of inclusivity that it works to share with the entire school and community. Students who want to get involved have a variety of activities that they can participate in and while the activities are fun, those participating take away purpose and the ability to be a part of something bigger than themselves. For those seeking to join Pennrige Unified Sports, reach out to Ms. James at [email protected]. For those looking to take part in the Pennridge Unifed Club, reach out to Ms. Ashlock [email protected]