June winner

Championing inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities

912 Votes
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Special Olympics Maine promotes social inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities through Unified Champion Clubs. The clubs join people with and without intellectual disabilities through shared recreational sports and inclusive activities. It was inspired by a simple principle: Playing and competing together creates a path to friendships, understanding and inclusion.

Special Olympics Maine, the largest sport organization in Maine for people with intellectual disabilities, provides over 5,000 adult and child athletes with year-round sports training and competitions along with inclusive opportunities. As an extension of the organization’s Unified Champion Schools program, Unified Champion Clubs team up with YMCAs, Boys & Girls Clubs and other community entities to offer ongoing, year-round opportunities for people ages 18 and older to engage in inclusive activities, sports and community events.

 

Changing lives and attitudes

Unified Champion Clubs bring people with and without intellectual disabilities together beyond the playing field. In addition to training and playing recreational sports together, participants are invited to lead alongside each other, working collaboratively as equals.

 

“When biases are dropped and inclusion is the norm, life’s joys can be shared much more deeply.”

– Sawyer Boulette, Director, Special Olympics Maine Unified Champion Clubs

 

Not only do these experiences enhanced the quality of life for the Special Olympics athletes, they also open the hearts and minds of the volunteers or “unified partners.” “When biases are dropped and inclusion is the norm, life’s joys can be shared much more deeply,” says Sawyer Boulette, the director of Special Olympics Maine Unified Champion Clubs.

Boulette has been involved with Special Olympics Maine since 2013. After experiencing first-hand the transformative power of inclusive sport, she dreamed of creating more inclusive opportunities for Special Olympics Maine athletes as well as community members without intellectual disabilities. Through that dream, with the generous support of the Maine Masonic Charitable Foundation, the Unified Champion Club was born. Special Olympics Maine has been a pioneer for this work and is leading the way for this nationally recognized program.

 

Joining the inclusion revolution

The clubs not only foster community through sports but also encourage all community members to participate in the “inclusion revolution” by cheering on participants and raising awareness about the importance of respecting people with intellectual disabilities.

When Unified Champion Clubs were first launched just a few years ago, Robert Wheeler, president of J. Edward Knight insurance agency, wanted to help ensure its success. In 2022 the agency and principals collectively donated over $7,500 to support the program, and they’ve also recruited other businesses to sponsor it.

Wheeler and his staff have been involved with Special Olympics Maine for decades, having sponsored many events and provided direct program funding through the years. With the launch of Unified Champion Clubs, they felt renewed motivated to deepen their commitment to the inclusion revolution.

 

“I call it inclusion at its best. That day they were not Special Olympics athletes, just fellow members of our team.”

– Robert Wheeler, President, J. Edward Knight

 

Agency staff demonstrate inclusion by inviting Special Olympics Maine athletes to join their team for fundraising events, such as the annual Lobster Dip, a New Year’s Day dip in the chilly Atlantic Ocean to benefit Special Olympics Maine.

This year J. Edward Knight staff joined Team Freezing for a Reason, captained by Boulette, and helped their team raise the most funds for the Lobster Dip. “Seeing the joy on the faces of the athletes that were part of our team was amazing,” recalls Wheeler. “I call it inclusion at its best. That day they were not Special Olympics athletes, just fellow members of our team.”

 

Make a difference for people with intellectual disabilities

You can help make a difference in the lives of people with intellectual disabilities. A Make More Happen Award would be used for program supplies, to offset costs associated with participation fees for athletes and to help fund community coordinator positions.

Help J. Edward Knight win $10,000 for Special Olympics Maine Unified Champion Clubs by clicking the vote button. Get them an extra vote by cheering them on in the comments below by June 30, 2023.

912 Votes
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Michael McKenney
8 months ago

The best of the best!

Buffi Thibeau
8 months ago

I’ve taken the opportunity to share with my son the wonderful joy of this program and it’s benefits. He is taking great pride in being able to help.

ann Domingue
8 months ago

Great organization!

Steve OBrien
8 months ago

Great program

LoriB
8 months ago

Such a great organization!

Rob
8 months ago

Volunteering for Unified Champions Club is one of the best things you can do!

Irma Sanchini
8 months ago

Unified Sports and Special Olympics have changed the lives of so many people here in Maine and around the world❣

Andrea Turgeon
8 months ago

Unified sports and clubs have done so much to change the lives of athletes and partners at Hampden Academy. It is worthwhile!

Jill Lang
8 months ago

A great cause worthy of support!

Brenda Blackman
8 months ago

It’s worth every moment to be involved in SOME, a rewarding feeling

K. A.
8 months ago

Great opportunities!

Julie
8 months ago

Great program!!

Sarah
8 months ago

Great program, been engaging with my nephew for years!

Lori
8 months ago

Such a great opportunity!

S Davis
8 months ago

Getting so close… Almost there!

Kim
8 months ago

Doing great!

Esther
8 months ago

Love it! Great cause.

Jeanne
8 months ago

Championing a great cause!

Lori
8 months ago

Wonderful organization!

Rachel
8 months ago

We can do this!! <3

Jessica
8 months ago

Best cause ever!!!!

Sandy
8 months ago

Great effort for the cause!

Rob
8 months ago

100 Votes to go! We got this!!

Wade
8 months ago

Inclusion revolution

Kerrie Oliver
8 months ago

Best of luck!

wayne daniels
8 months ago

Super effort <3

Daniel MacNeil
8 months ago

Great work, J. Edward Knight!!!!! Such an amazing organization!

Julie House
8 months ago

Great cause, lets help them.

Michelle Roy
8 months ago

Such wonderful opportunities for all involved…a definite difference made in everyones lives

Darrell J Gudroe
8 months ago

J Edward is the best! Check them out for all of your insurance needs!

Dawn
8 months ago

Great cause!

Amie
8 months ago

A great cause and a great agency: the perfect team! Impressive, helpful and heartwarming.

Lori
8 months ago

Such a great cause!

Lori Davis
8 months ago

The best cause. I was a volunteer for many years at the winter Special Olympics at Sugarloaf. It was such a rewarding experience.

Kim Breen
8 months ago

Wonderful! Great cause!

Stephanie
8 months ago

Such a great cause!! Keep up the good work!!

Kelly Caswell
8 months ago

amazing cause , keep up the good work

Arie
8 months ago

The Unified Champions Club and Special Olympics Maine is bringing amazing opportunities to everyone in Maine. Thank you all for taking the time to make the world a better place to be!

Last edited 8 months ago by Arie
Mara Pennell
8 months ago

My son has loved participating with students from our special education services at Woodside during Unified Bowling!

Kacey LePage
8 months ago

Congratulations and good luck! You are doing amazing work with Special Olympics!

Stephen Nagy
8 months ago

Awesome!

Anita M Penley
8 months ago

They Do a Great Job with their participants to get the best experience and feel included. Keep it Going !!!

Cinthia
8 months ago

Great cause. Thank you

Kelly
8 months ago

Happy to help support this awesome cause!

Jenna Clemishaw
8 months ago

Thank you for championing such a great cause!!

Sawyer Boulette
8 months ago

Thank you all for supporting Special Olympics Maine and our Unified Champion Club! It has been life changing for many people! ❤️

S Davis
8 months ago

Great cause…Please vote!

michael cushman
8 months ago

Keep up the great work

Stephanie
8 months ago

Great cause and lot’s of inclusion! Love it!

Brenda Blackman
8 months ago

What an awesome day

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