Four students are set to make history as the first Unified Sports team to represent Alberta at Nationals when they compete at the 2018 Special Olympics Ontario School Championships from May 29 to 31 in Peterborough, Ontario.
Athletes Noah Van Dewark and Ami Schann, along with partners Kendra Van Dewark and Emma Rockwell will comprise the team of bocce players from Bert Church High School in Airdrie who will make the trip to Ontario.
Since the inception of Unified Sports in Alberta in 2015 with the partnership with the Alberta Schools' Athletic Association (ASAA), Bert Church High School has been leading the charge as advocates for playing unified under the tutelage of the coaches, Ian Ferguson and Cynthia Dahl.
Last year Bert Church was selected as the winner of the Unified School Award for their leadership, commitment to inclusion, and transformative efforts to promote the ideals of “Play Unified.” Their dedication to the program is inspiring and later this month they will reach another milestone as the first Unified Sports team from Alberta to compete at Nationals.
"We have had a pretty amazing year being named the Unified school of the year and getting selected for [Nationals] it is a pretty big honour, but it is also a testament to the work our athletes and partners have put in over the last three years and the work that we have done as a school to bring Unified into our school culture," Said Ferguson.
This particular group first came together as a bean bag toss team and their chemistry has allowed them to transfer their skills to bocce.
Training is going well and their confidence continues to grow as they support each other with high fives and words of encouragement, along with adding a few trick shots to their arsenal.
“I got my left hand,” said Noah Van Dewark.
They have trained hard by hitting the bocce court a few times a week, as well as practicing for other sports like basketball as some of the team also competed at the Unified Basketball tournament in Calgary on May 23.
As a group they are looking forward to traveling together, meeting other athletes, and most importantly having fun.
Schaan said she was looking forward to “having fun with my teammates,” adding that, “we’re going to get a medal.”
Coach Dahl echoed these sentiments and expects the event to be a welcoming and rewarding experience.
“We want to have fun,” said Dahl. “We learn about good sportsmanship and we want to do our best to have fun, enjoy meeting new people and going different places.”
Ferguson’s expectations for the event include gaining insight on running large scale events and adapting any learning experiences to the program here in Alberta.
His goal for the team is to enjoy their experience and take away as much as they can, because it is a unique opportunity for everyone involved.
“If we go out there and win I’ll be happy and if we go out there and whether we win or not I know this group is going to represent themselves, the school, and our province with pride,” said Ferguson.
We wish the Chargers all the best in Ontario and will be cheering them on as they proudly represent Alberta! Be sure to follow Special Olympics Alberta on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, along with ASAA on Twitter for updates on the team and their results.