By Conrad Dudderar
Yukon Public Schools’ unified soccer team was honored for being selected to compete in the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games.
Head coach Renee Shoaf and assistant coach Kim Garner joined student team members at the Sept. 12th YPS Board of Education meeting inside the administration building, 600 Maple.
There, Yukon High School special athletes and unified partners were celebrated for their accomplishment. The team consisted of 10 students; eight were at the meeting to receive accolades.
“We applied in March 2021, were selected in May 2021 and then went in June 2022,” Shoaf said. “So, we spent an entire year fund-raising and practicing, to go to Orlando.”
The 2022 Special Olympics USA Games on June 5-12 united more than 5,500 athletes and coaches, some 20,000 volunteers and 125,000 spectators.
Team Oklahoma consisted of 64 delegates who competed in soccer, bocce, bowling, golf, powerlifting, softball, swimming, and track and field.
A Special Olympics’ unified team is comprised of students with and without disabilities who “get to play together on a team as one,” Shoaf explained.
Members of Yukon’s unified soccer team trained and competed as teammates.
The group met its goal to raise $12,000 ($1,000 per person) to attend the national summer games. Special Olympics Oklahoma also provided funds to cover costs of the trip.
The team even got to fly a private jet from Tulsa to Florida – at no cost to the school district.
While in Orlando for the summer Special Olympics’ competition, team members visited Disney World, Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom.
“The kids had a great time,” Shoaf noted. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
Unified soccer team coaches Shoaf and Garner are special education teachers at YHS.
Yukon is a Special Olympics’ National Banner Unified Champion School for having an inclusive school climate and exuding a sense of collaboration, engagement and respect for all students and staff.
A Unified Champion School receives national banner recognition by demonstrating commitment to inclusion by meeting 10 national standards of excellence.
Primary activities within these standards are Special Olympics’ united sports, inclusive youth leadership and whole-school engagement.
About 15 years ago, YHS became the first school in Oklahoma to become a National Banner Unified Champion School when the grant-funded program started through the U.S. Department of Education.
The school reapplies for this national distinction every four years.
Yukon also received an Oklahoma Special Olympics’ state unified champion banner award last year.