Special Olympics Alberta and Alberta Schools’ Athletic Association Tip Off First Unified Sport Event

Special Olympics Alberta and Alberta Schools’ Athletic Association Tip Off First Unified Sport Event


It was all smiles and net as more than 50 students descended upon the Saville Community Sports Centre for the inaugural Special Olympics Unified Sports Basketball Jamboree May 27.


“Any opportunity to bring communities together that don’t always get to play together is really exciting,” said Mayor Don Iveson, who was on hand Friday showing off his basketball skills and interacting with the students.

“I’m really excited that this has come to Edmonton and students are getting a chance to play together on mixed teams. I think it’s phenomenal,” he said. “I think this helps build relationships, particularly for people who wouldn’t necessarily interact with persons with disabilities. I think it really helps break down barriers and stigma.”

Special Olympics Unified Sports joins people with and without intellectual disabilities as teammates in the same sport. Shanna Kurylo, program coordinator of Unified Sports with Alberta Schools’ Athletic Association (ASAA), says the program was inspired by a simple principle.

“Training, competing, and playing together is a quick path to understanding, acceptance, and friendship,” she said.


“We’re hoping the #playunified campaign will mobilize and inspire youth across the world to play and ultimately live unified.”

Students from various Edmonton high schools, including Bev Facey Community High, L.Y. Cairns School, Ècole J.H. Picard School, and Harry Ainlay High School, spent the morning competing in three mini basketball games. Shouts of encouragement and joy filled the arena as the spirit of comradery and friendship soared. Coaches, players, volunteers, and fans alike cheered on each and every player as the day’s goal was all about inclusion, not victory.

Special Olympics Alberta has developed a unified strategy to bring people with and without intellectual disabilities together, because when you connect athletes with others, hearts and minds are open and misunderstandings and negative attitudes disappear. Unified Sports is but one approach Special Olympics Alberta is taking to reach this goal.

“We primarily bring people together through sport, but we also do this through music, dancing, and other activities,” said Katherine Dalusong, marketing and communications manager with Special Olympics Alberta.

“We are implementing this strategy in schools and communities worldwide, creating youth leaders and a unified generation who will create a world of respect and inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities.”

Jaret McFadyen, a Grade 11 student from Ècole J.H. Picard School, said it was really fun to share in the opportunity to play basketball with so many students from different walks of life.

“It’s always good to give back,” he said. “And basketball is just such a great sport to be able to share with people who don’t have the opportunity to play competitively or who don’t get out as much. It’s great to give back and give everyone the opportunity to play basketball.”

McFadyen’s sentiments were echoed by fellow competitor Clifton Rain, a Grade 11 student from L.Y. Cairns School, who said today was “all about having fun and playing basketball.”
Left to right: Clifton Rain and Jaret McFadyen love playing on the same team for Unified Sports.

The next Special Olympics Unified Sports event is scheduled for June 10 at the University of Calgary Kinesiology Complex from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.  For more events and information on our Unified Sports events, check out our Unified Sports page.  

For more photos of the event, check out Special Olympics Alberta's Flickr Album or Facebook Album.