Hello Special Olympics Maine Athletes, Coaches, and Caregivers,
Thank you for tuning in this week to Special Olympics Maine’s Weekly Warrior Challenge and allowing the Unified Champion Club at the AYCC to be a part of it! If you werent able to check out our videos you can access them below:
*Click Here to Watch the Swim-Specific Workout (2.0) by AYCC Unified Champion Club
*Click Here to Watch this week’s Healthy Snacking Series with the AYCC Unified Champion Club
What is the AYCC Unified Champion Club? Our club is a pilot program, one of the first in the nation and the only one focused on adults, in a partnership with Boys & Girls Clubs of America and Special Olympics National. I began the position of Club Coordinator in the beginning of December 2019 and with the guidance of Special Olympics Maine and Area Unified coaches, as well as the financial backing of the Maine Masonic Charitable Foundation, I have built this club from the ground up!
A little about me… I grew up in Augusta and have been involved in athletics all my life! I still play basketball, softball, golf, and run regularly. In high school and in the Air Force, I was a volunteer at different Special Olympics events in Maine and California. I coach basketball as well as softball, and have also coached soccer in the past. I’ve coached athletes from kindergarten through college. Prior to coming to the AYCC to begin and run our Unified Champion Club, I’ve worked in banking for many years, as well as many non-profits, including the KVYMCA and the American Lung Association – where I was the volunteer coordinator for the Trek Across Maine and the American Lung Association’s (the largest and most profitable fundraiser in the United States!)
My interview committee for the Unified Champion Club Coordinator position included Ian Frank as well as one of Special Olympics Maine’s fiercest competitors, Megan Rosenberg! I am so incredibly grateful for the opportunity to be on the ground floor of such an amazing program that will hopefully be implemented across the US!
Our first program was a walking club, beginning in mid-January, 2020! Athletes were paired up with a unified partner from our community to meet and walk around our indoor track. The pairs kept track of the number of laps walked and we made a competition out of it! All athletes receive a free membership to our facility while participating in our club, and we have had athletes that come in even without their partner and walk the track – trying to increase their team’s lap total! We started the walking club with 4 participants and ended with 7. The athletes and their partners walked a total of 224 laps the first week, and during the last week of the program (seven weeks later) they walked 541 laps in one week! It was amazing to see the athletes push themselves to walk more. It was even more incredible to see the friendships being formed between the athletes and their partners.
Our basketball program ran co-consecutively with our walking club (but started two weeks later) It ran for five weeks and we met once a week to work on skills and drills for 30 minutes. Afterwards, we would scrimmage each other for 30 minutes. Our basketball program began with 10 athletes and we ended with 14! In the final week of our program, we hosted the Winslow High School Unified Basketball team and played them for an hour scrimmage! Many of our athletes had played on that team in high school, so it was really great to see the athletes reconnect. It was also incredible to see the improvement that both teams had made during their seasons -our gym was PACKED with fans!
Updates – Our programs have been put on hold for now until it is safe to bring our athletes and partners back into the facility, however, I have been hosting zoom calls with our athletes, including playing BINGO! I look forward to watching our club members grow over the course of the year and hope to continue to grow our program. Our athletes are most looking forward to our new programs: Unified Swim, Unified Bocce, Unified Pickleball, Excursions to the local Equestrian Center, Community-Based Projects, Running Food Collections Sites, and Volunteering at the AYCC! This club has given many athletes a place to belong to, a place to grow, and a place to be themselves. Please feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com with any questions about our Unified Champion Club!
Noah Gagne – AYCC UCC Athlete
How old are you? 19
Where did you go to high school? Winslow High School
What’s your favorite sport to watch? NASCAR racing
Who’s your favorite athlete? Rob Gronkowski
What’s your favorite sport to play? Basketball
How long have you been playing sports? Six years
How have you been keeping busy during this downtime? Playing video games
What made you join the AYCC’s Unified Champion Club? To be part of a team and meet new people!
What’s your favorite part of the club so far? Participating in the club sports and hanging out with people!
What club activity are you most looking forward to? Unified Swimming and playing more Unified Basketball
What are some of your favorite hobbies? Playing video games
Tell us something cool about yourself! I really like to help others
Tate Warden – AYCC UCC Unified Partner
Why did you become a partner? I became a partner because I was asked! I knew we were starting a Unified program here at the AYCC and wanted to get involved, when presented with the opportunity there was no way I could have turned it down.
Was this your first time working directly with an athlete? This was my first time working with athletes with intellectual disabilities and it was AWESOME! Each week was so much fun and brought much enjoyment to myself and those who were participating.
What did you enjoy most? I love people. Being able to develop relationships with these amazing athletes was the most enjoyable part for me. Now seeing these individuals around the AYCC building, it’s nice to be able to stop and catch up with them and continue getting to know them in more than one aspect.
What is your favorite sport? This is tough, my favorite sport is soccer, but most people would think it’s swimming since that is what I did competitively through college.
Who is your favorite athlete? My favorite athlete is hands down Ian Thorpe, an unbelievable swimmer from Australia who retired way too early.
Do you plan on being a partner again in the future? Absolutely! I am looking forward to the next program starting up so I can be involved.
What would you say to anyone thinking about becoming a partner? Do it. Skill and knowledge of a sport do not matter! We are all here to learn and grow. It’s one of the best environments I have ever been involved with.
Peter Mahoney – AYCC UCC Athlete
How old are you? 23
Where did you go to high school? Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School
What’s your favorite sport to watch? Football and car racing
Who’s your favorite athlete? Tom Brady
What’s your favorite sport to play? Basketball
How long have you been playing sports? Since middle school
How have you been keeping busy during this downtime? Going outside for walks, bike riding, drawing, cooking and playing with my bigfoot remote control truck
What made you join the AYCC’s Unified Champion Club? My friend, Sean, told me about it and I participated in Unified Sports in high school
What’s your favorite part of the club so far? My favorite part of the club so far is being with my friends and playing unified basketball
What club activity are you most looking forward to? Swimming
What are some of your favorite hobbies? I collect Lionel trains and like RC cars
Tell us something cool about yourself! I ROCK at dancing and playing Wii’s ‘Just Dance’!