HENRICO, Va. (WRIC) — Henrico middle school students went head to head on the basketball court Wednesday.
They were competing for the championship but the games were more about the players than the final score.
“Today is about two groups of people,” explains 8th grader Eyaya Fletcher, “People that do not have disabilities and people that do have disabilities coming together for one cause.”
They’re here to compete.
Special Olympics Unified Basketball brings together athletes of all abilities.
“When they get on the playing floor, not so much different. Much more alike and very, very inclusive,” says Virginia Special Olympics President Rick Jeffrey. Rmani Saidykhan has Autism. Before the game, the Short Pump Middle Schooler said he was “going out there and stealing the ball.”
And he did. Twice. Saidykhan also scored a basket.
His team won the game and took home a trophy.
“It teaches people that it’s ok to be different and it’s ok if they have disabilities,” adds Fletcher, “That they can still do the same thing as people who don’t have disabilities.”
The program ensures all of the students get a shot at success.
“So important as much for children with special needs as children without because everyone needs to learn more acceptance and love for everyone,” adds coach Jeanne Pennington.