Playing Hoops with Heart

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Port Jefferson hosted its first Unified Basketball game recently against Commack High School. Under the guidance of the Special Olympics and supported by Section XI, the concept is to pair people with and without disabilities on the same team, providing an equal opportunity for all to contribute to the success of the team through their unique skills and qualities.

The team consists of nine members in grades 9-12. Along with Adam Sherrard, director of athletics, they participated in a Youth Activation Conference Summit hosted by the Special Olympics in late spring where they learned about inclusive sports and how to provide opportunities for all students to participate in sports alongside one another. The group also learned how to take on leadership roles in promoting unified activities and engaging the school and community in supporting the athletes. As part of the program, the students have also been promoting the campaign “Spread the Word to end the Word” in attempts for high school students to understand how the use of the R-word is offensive and to be more thoughtful with their choice of words.

Coached by Jayson Williams, the recent game was an exciting first for Port Jefferson. Sophomore Hailey Hearney said that after getting to know one another as players on the team, now there are more smiles and a special fellowship in the hallways with the special education population. Her teammate James Marci simply said from the sidelines “this is why I do it,” when another teammate, Michael Brown, sunk yet another basket to cheers from the crowd and a win for Port Jefferson at 48-38. To date, the team is undefeated at 4-0.

HOME GAME TODAY 4 p.m. COME OUT TO SUPPORT OUR TEAM: Michael Brown, Ryan Daly, Shane DeVincenzo, Adam Friedman, Hailey Hearney, James Marci, Aarya Patel, Brendan Rogers and Chris Scotto.