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Unified teams making unified friends

July 23, 2010

Arizona vs. Illinois

With the addition of flag football to the 2010 Special Olympics USA National Games, Payton LaCivita took the opportunity to volunteer his time and talent by joining the Arizona unified flag football team.

As a “unified partner,” LaCivita, a college student at Arizona State, is just as much as part of the team as his teammates with intellectual disabilities.

LaCivita said, “Three years ago my high school coach asked me to come and help out with these guys. I volunteered then, and I’ve been doing it ever since.”

The unified sports program started with an idea called “Project UNIFY.” According to the Special Olympics website, Project UNIFY’s goal is to “activate young people to develop strong communities where all young people are agents of change-fostering respect, dignity, and advocacy for people with intellectual disabilities by utilizing programs and initiatives of Special Olympics.”

The program creates special bonds among teammates. For example, Marc Whatley, a 30-year old athlete from Tucson, Ariz., has found a friend in LaCivita. Both are athletes. Both love football. Both had smiles when they talked about their win. It’s their similarities that matter, not their differences.

Krista McDonald, Emily German – University of Nebraska, Lincoln, CoJMC

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