Plunging for Unified Sports

Downtown Phoenix’s wellness, outreach, and facilities employees from the Sun Devil Fitness Complex held Movement Marathon and Polar Plunge on Monday Feb. 26

“We found out that one of the ASU unified flag football teams actually made to the Special Olympics games in Seattle Washington. It would cost $13,000 for the whole team to go,” said Madisen Privatsky.

Privatsky is one of the coordinators behind the event and said the money raised would benefit Arizona State University’s Unified flag football team.

With a minimum donation of $5 students were able to form teams and participate in games such as dodge ball, archery tag and even group wellness demos at Movement Marathon.

With the teams that students formed, they were able to sponsor themselves or a member within the team to take the plunge into the pool in 67 degree weather.

SDFC employees contacted Unified Sports to come over and collaborate with the event and brought along Special Olympics Arizona Four Peaks Area director, Eve Vance who was able to shed some more light on what Unified Sports is and their mission for the day.

Unified sports takes the typical student and partners them with special needs athletes. These teams practice and compete at area and state competitions and may move on to national games and world games, or the Special Olympics.

Vance explained that the money raised from the event will help pay for the basic necessities the athletes need such as: uniforms, flights and the entire week-long trip to Seattle.

Unified Sports is important because it builds bonds between students with intellectual disabilities and typical students, according to Vance.

“Most kids with special needs don’t have friendships like how you or I could go out and make friends,” she said. Vance added that these bonds the athletes build are important for the athletes because it gives them support.

Tyller Ayers works as an Adaptive & Inclusive Recreation Coordinator at the SDFC, plays for the unified flag football team and actually helped jumpstart the Unified program.

She said that funding the Unified Sports team is important because it is a great opportunity, not only for ASU students, but for the Special Olympics athletes because a lot of them don’t really get the opportunity in anything on a college campus after they graduate high school.

ASU students get to work with a diverse group of people and promote inclusivity and the athletes get to feel the inclusion and that in itself is a great opportunity, according to Ayers.

Ayers is looking forward to going to the USA games for Special Olympics this summer and she loves playing with her team and the comradery they share.

She continued, “The Special Olympics is making this a great experience for our athletes, but I’m lucky enough that I get to tag along as well.”

Eventually, some staff members and students gathered together for the countdown before they plunged into the freezing water.

ASU Downtown Phoenix’s Dean of Students, Sharon Smith, was among the group of people plunging that evening.

She said she decided to take the plunge when students challenged her after raising more that $1500 and she congratulated the group for throwing a successful event.

This was the first event for Special Olympics Arizona and the Downtown Phoenix SDFC. Vance said she hopes that Polar Plunge and Movement Marathon continue to be held annually and to collaborate more in the future.