East Brookfield, MA — The Spencer-East Brookfield Regional School District held its third Unified Game Day on Friday, May 27th, that included the district's students with disabilities/diverse learners and families in a daylong Unified Olympics event at East Brookfield Elementary School.
"We want to showcase the strengths that students have and there are so many... A lot of their strengths come out during this day long event. Students with disabilities persevere through a lot, to be able to just come to school, to be able to participate in everything, to be able to close the gap, and for everyone to be included and to feel included," co-organizer Ron Tomlin said.
"And that is one of the most important things: for each person who attends our schools has a right to come to school and feel excited - included - and feel like they want to learn; feel comfortable and feel safe,” said Superintendent of Schools, Paul Haughey.
East Brookfield Elementary students participated in the event, along with special education students from Wire Village School, Knox Trail Middle School and David Prouty High School.
The Unified Olympics events were separated by school with students with disabilities partnered with role models so they may compete in a variety of team events. Events taking place throughout the day included but were not limited to: whiffle ball, volleyball, obstacle course races, long jump, and softball throw to name just a few...
Principal Tomlin and district faculty and staff were inspired back in 2019 to create a game day after attending the Special Olympics.
Hundreds of students gathered on the backfield of East Brookfield Elementary as each group marched with the posters they made signifying their schools.
"It's exciting that we could have everyone together in one place representing each of our schools," Haughey said. "More importantly, it was great to see our students being so brave as they competed throughout the day!”
…As you know, the motto of Unified Olympics/Special Olympics is: ‘Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.’ According to the Special Olympics, “the motto of Special Olympics athletes, a credo that has inspired thousands of communities to support the organization and millions of athletes to participate, despite whatever challenges they might face.
"It really was so nice to see everyone getting along, everyone being kind. Everyone coming together as a community and having fun," said Haughey.
The students could be seen laughing and competing while enjoying the overcast spring day.
AaTs of Massachusetts brought Tomo, the Therapy Dog, and spent time with students, parents and families enjoying the different events as a spectator... Local police were also on hand ensuring safety and even handed out ice cream at the end of the day. And a Disc Jockey was on hand playing music throughout the day too…
SEBRSD administration, faculty and staff have worked together over the past four years to organize the daylong event with local businesses and community leaders. Together, SEBRSD wanted to create an opportunity to collaborate with the communities they serve while also giving parents/families a chance to interact with the staff, meet their children's current and future educators, and see their children succeed.
"Our focus really, is to have a wonderful community event where parents and families can come and see their children succeed," Tomlin said.
"We talk often about school and community partnership/collaboration, and have really worked hard to build those relationships over the past five years or so…. And while we missed a year in 2020 because of COVID, it was really great to see that the health and safety guidelines are eased a little bit, allowing us to take advantage and hold our district-wide Unified Olympics this year," added Tomlin.
The SEBRSD Unified Olympics Committee awarded medals at the end of the daylong competition to every single student who took part thanks to the generosity of the Special Olympics of Massachusetts.
The games gave parents/families a chance to cheer students and praise their success.
Tomlin said it is important whenever possible for the community, and parents, to see that work that's getting done every day in the classroom. "They want to see the relationships that our children are building with each other. After all, they really are each other's cheerleaders," he said.
"Everyone needs a cheerleader to cheer us on, whether it's with reading, writing, running, driving, or just showing up for school,” added Superintendent Haughey. “We all need that person. And the Unified Olympics is just an extension of what's currently happening in our schools."
The Spencer-East Brookfield Regional School District is becoming a more unified learning community by providing quality opportunities to students with and without disabilities. “It is all about being inclusive… As time moves forward, all of us here in the district hope to see this event grow - so we can continue to include more people!” said Haughey.