The Seattle Seahawks, Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, and CenturyLink are committed to supporting the healthy development of youth in our community. Through the Spirit of 12 program, 12s can support four non-profit organizations and their inclusive youth programming, which is needed now more than ever. The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation matches 100% of every donation made by 12s. This year's partners include Special Olympics Washington, Treehouse, Outdoors For All, and Big Brothers Big Sisters.
2020 will be Special Olympics Washington's seventh season as a Spirit of 12 partner. Spirit of 12 funds raised are dedicated to the Special Olympics Washington Unified Champion Schools program which serves elementary through college-aged youth and young adults. The program promotes meaningful social inclusion by bringing together students with and without intellectual disabilities to create and promote school climates where students of all abilities feel welcome and are routinely included in, and feel a part of all activities, opportunities and functions.
With sports as its foundation, the Unified Champion Schools program empowers students to be more inclusive in all aspects of their lives – at home, on the field, and in the classroom. The program also provides inclusive youth leadership opportunities to help students develop the tools they need to be catalysts for inclusion in their communities and beyond.
Zoie, a recent graduate from Fife High School, is a great example of what it means to be a Unified athlete. She started the Unified club at Fife High School, represented Special Olympics Washington at a global youth leadership conference in Asia, and competed in Unified sports throughout her high school career.
"I learned through Unified Schools that working with Special Olympics athletes and Unified partners teaches you to never give up," Zoie said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult for many and especially for Special Olympics athletes who already face social isolation. With the cancelation of in-person activities, including practices, local and state competitions, and other events, Special Olympics Washington quickly pivoted to provide athletes and participants in Unified Champion Schools programs with virtual opportunities to stay active, fit and engaged while staying physically distanced at home. These online initiatives include:
- Bi-weekly Athletes Connect Panels which bring together professional athletes and Special Olympics athletes to discuss topics that relate to all athletes, on and off the playing field.
- Live, online workouts that enable athletes to stay active and fit at home.
- Monthly Family Health Forums which connect families and care givers of Special Olympics athletes with health care professionals to access information and have insightful conversations.
More than ever, youth are looking for ways to stay connected to peers and ways to stay physically active," said Morgan Larche, Director of Unified Schools. "Special Olympics Washington's virtual programming for youth promotes intentional social connections, and gets students engaged and working as a team. Through opportunities like our Virtual Fall Games, Unified athletes can connect and compete with their school Unified teams and clubs, providing social inclusion at a time when it's needed the most."
Throughout October and November, athletes will be training and competing from home in basketball, volleyball, flag football, and cycling as part of Special Olympics Washington's Virtual Fall Games. The Virtual Fall Games will encourage participants to stay physically and mentally fit while staying safe. In addition, Unified high school students statewide play an active role in the planning and creation of content for the Virtual Fall Games. Donations to the Spirit of 12 program will help Special Olympics Washington create online and offline training tools and programming, provide sports equipment to those in need, and offer health and wellness guidance for athletes statewide. Click here to donate today!