Special Olympics and Girls’ Varsity Basketball help "Pack the Stands"



The Special Olympics and varsity girls’ basketball team came together Wednesday night to host the second annual “Pack the Stands” Special Olympics basketball game.

The Mustang Gold team won by a score of 36-30, but it was a fun game for both teams as the varsity girls’ played alongside the Special Olympics athletes in one of their biggest games of the season.

The game helped to promote Project Unify, which encourages students with and without disabilities to play as teammates, foster positive relationships, and create acceptance for all.

“I knew right away when I found out we would be playing together that this would be a great way for the community to see how special these kids are individually,” varsity basketball player and peer partner Nicole Hubert said.

The purpose of the “Pack the Stands” night is to give Special Olympics athletes the varsity atmosphere that they would not otherwise have in a normal game. With a large crowd, cheerleaders on the sidelines, and announcers calling out each player’s name as they ran out, the smiles on every athlete’s face were enough to prove they felt the “varsity” experience and then some.

Events like these help to gain awareness for Special Olympics and close the gap between general education students and those with special needs. Many students came eager to support the teams and their friends with signs to cheer for them.

“It brings them so much joy and that authentic feeling of being in a varsity type atmosphere. Adding typical functioning students and the girls’ varsity basketball team was just another added level and it could not have gone better,” Special Olympics head coach and student services teacher Dwain Ackerman said.

“It was awesome to see the smiles on their faces when they scored the baskets, they loved it,” added Hubert.

Competing in basketball and participating in Special Olympics is enjoyable for these athletes and establishes leadership skills, while teaching them to work as a team with one another.

Junior Special Olympics athlete Ben Paulsen is a leader for the Mustang Black team and liked being able to play with the girls’ team. “I’ve been trying to lead my team to get some wins, it was fun to play against a team of all females to see how we did,” Paulsen said.

By Drew Danko