CLE ELUM – Special Olympics’ “Project UNIFY” is a national project gaining ground right here in our state. The program combines education and sports to develop inclusion in schools, uniting students together and fostering acceptance and advocacy for people with intellectual disabilities.
One aspect of the project is Camp Unity, a summer camp for student athletes of all abilities.
We caught up with the students at Cle Elum’s Camp Ensign, where campers with and without intellectual disabilities – partners and athletes- gathered for a few days of all the camp favorites: swimming, kayaking, horseback riding. One of the highlights, according the campers we spoke with? The surprise field trip to nearby Leavenworth for a scavenger hunt!
But this wasn’t just any scavenger hunt; this was “Bigger, Better, Best!” Working in teams, campers started with their camp bracelets and went shop to shop, trying to trade up for something bigger and better each time.
“It’s a pretty new experience for a lot of these guys, which is awesome that we can provide the opportunity to take kids away from where they grew up, and put them into a city where they`ve never been. Especially a city that`s as cool as Leavenworth!” said Morgan Larche, a Special Olympics manager.
Everyone was competitive when it came time to decide the winner (a very colorful looking cow); but really, the take-away from camp goes much deeper than that. As camper Mitch told us, “My favorite activity of this week was hanging with all my new friends and (getting) to know them at new places.”
The goal of the camp is inclusion, and that’s the same messaging “Project UNIFY” is hoping to continue encouraging in the over 100 local schools already taking part. Next week, we’ll show you how they’re doing this through “Unified Sports” teams.