Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools is an education and sports based strategy powered by an engaged youth community that increases athletic and leadership opportunities for students with and without intellectual disabilities, while creating communities of acceptance for all

Unified Champion Schools uses sports to develop school communities where youth are agents of change - fostering respect, dignity, and advocacy for people with intellectual disabilities.

Through the opportunities below, we are collaborating with school systems across Maine to meet individual schools’ strategic goals. Together, we can create more inclusive attitudes, develop physical fitness, promote community service, and build character in young people.

Unified Sports®— students compete on teams comprised of approximately equal numbers of students with and without intellectual disabilities.

Youth Leadership & Advocacy— an inclusive student-led leadership team, known as a Unified Youth Council, organizes and promotes Unified Schools events to spark awareness and showcase new friendships. Organizing events could include “R-word” campaign and promoting Unified Sports involvement.

Whole School Engagement – when an entire school accepts and includes students and others with intellectual disabilities, it is a powerful community of change. Events could include an “R-Word” campaign, activating the Get Into It® curriculum or Fans in the Stands.

To get started, contact Ian at IanF@somaine.org. For additional Unified Schools resources, check out the links below.

UnifiedGeneric_Ball_FB_Profile Unified Sports® - Unified Sports partners students with intellectual disabilities with students without intellectual disabilities to train, compete and represent your school in team sports.  Special education teachers have reported the program to be extremely effective at impacting youth, promoting physical activity and inspiring leadership. One teacher reported: “I’ve seen more interaction on the field today between classmates than I’ve seen in my classroom all year.” There are three ways to participate in unified sports:

Special Olympics Maine will host, local & state level, 1 day competitions/tournaments throughout the year in the following sports: Athletics, Aquatics, Basketball, Bocce, Bowling (10 pin & Candlepin), Golf & Soccer.  Check out our state and local events calendar on our website, www.somaine.org, for more information.

The Maine Principals' Association and SOMaine continue to partner to offer Unified Sports opportunities for High School students to participate in.   For more information check out below or go to www.mpa.cc.

In-School participation through Unified PE classes or Recreational Unified Sport opportunities during or after school.   Click here for the Special Olympics Unified Sports Physical education resource guide
Need more information on how to start a Unified Sports program in your school?  Click the link below for a great resource for students & faculty to reference to start a Unified Sports program.


Unified Youth Council/Partners Club - a group of students with and without intellectual disabilities that meet on a regular basis to provide leadership, awareness and social opportunities in their school community.  A Unified Youth Council is encouraged to organize and execute school wide events such as a Respect campaign, Spread the Word to End the Word (R-word) Campaign and/or encourage students to be "Fans in the Stands" at Unified Sports and/or Special Olympics Maine events.  For more information on Inclusive Youth Leadership and what types of activities/events can be planned click on the link below.

Maine's Unified Champion Schools Youth Council Is Looking for 2017-18 Members!
Special Olympics Maine is looking for youth leaders that want to promote acceptance and respect while providing awareness on Intellectual Disabilities and Special Olympics.  If you have a student that exhibits a passion for Special Olympics and promoting inclusion please share this information and link to the Maine Unified Champion Schools Youth Council Application with them.  Deadline to apply is October 1st.  For more information contact Lisa Bird.

Click here for the Maine Unified Champion Schools Youth Council Application

Whole School Awareness - providing awareness opportunities, organized and executed by students, to the entire school community through, but not limited to, campaigns, rallies along with hosting SOMaine & Unified Sports events at your school.
  • Spread the Word to End the Word (R-word Campaign) - Spread the Word to End the Word is an ongoing effort by Special Olympics, Best Buddies and our supporters to inspire respect and acceptance through raising the consciousness of society about the R-word and how hurtful words and disrespect can be toward people with intellectual disabilities.  The campaign, created by youth, is held on the first Wednesday of March is intended to engage school organizations and communities to rally and pledge their support and to promote the inclusion and acceptance of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
  • Fans in the Stands - Bring a group of students, design big posters, gather at a local Special Olympics or Unified Sports® game or tournament, and cheer like crazy! Encourage members of your school to organize groups to be at every game or tournament to support Special Olympics athletes year-round. Start Fans in the Stands at your school to ensure that every athlete and team has supporting fans who cheer every game, rain or shine, win or lose.
  • Get Into It Curriculum - Special Olympics Get Into It consists of online resources that include lessons, activities, videos, athlete stories and supplemental materials. At the core of Get Into It are age-appropriate lessons designed to be taught in the context of class periods. Activities with ties to service learning are completed in a classroom or community setting, as part of a club, an afterschool activity or a community based event and include involvement with local Special Olympics Programs whenever possible.
    • Web-based interactivity for students & teachers
    • Service-Learning emphasis
    • State standards compatible
    • Fun!
  • Inclusive Schools Week - This year, the Inclusive Schools Week's theme focuses on standing up for inclusion. This is particularly fitting because in our world today, we are embracing changes necessary to protect the practices in education and society essential to making a positive difference for all.  In schools where inclusive education flourishes, there is an inspirational, more positive culture. This annual international event is celebrated the first week in December. It's a time designated to acknowledge the hard work and commitment of teachers, administrators, students, and parents in making their schools more inclusive and, thereby, significantly contributing to the development of a more inclusive society. The Week offers a significant opportunity for educators, students and parents to engage in dialogue about inclusive education and to plan for the future. It is a time when schools and communities can begin or continue the journey toward providing a quality education to all children regardless of differences in ability, gender, ethnicity, language and health status.


Big Chill Unified School Plunge

Special Olympics Maine is hosting its third annual Big Chill Unified School Plunge in Maranacook Lake in Winthrop on Saturday March 16th, 2019 hosted by American Legion Post #40.  This plunge is specific for students.  All funds raised will benefit Special Olympics Maine’s Unified Champion Schools programs with 30% of a school’s total money raised going directly back to the school to help fund current  and future Unified Champion Schools’ initiatives.  Come join the fun and show your school spirit while supporting a great cause!  Participants are required to raise a MINIMUM of $75.00 and will receive the official commemorative Big Chill Unified School Plunge t-shirt. Additional incentives and prizes are available based on additional monies raised.   For more information click here.

Unified Schools Funding

Special Olympics Maine is pleased to announce once again that funding will be available for schools to support their Unified Champion Schools  efforts.  To become eligible for this funding, schools that apply must exhibit how they will incorporate all three Unified School components, listed below, into their school community.
  • Unified Sports
  • Unified Youth Leadership
  • Whole School Awareness
The combination of all three Unified Champion School components in a school setting continues to provide the best approach for schools. Special Olympics Maine has witnessed first-hand the tremendous results Unified Champion Schools has had on school climates when these three Unified Champion School components are implemented within a school community.  The results have been overwhelmingly positive and have shown to bring positive change to entire school communities, such as accepting and respecting ALL students while also offering new opportunities to those who typically did not have them.
Based on funding we received, Special Olympics Maine will be able to offer schools who meet criteria an opportunity to receive funding as follows:
  • Awards will range from $1-$6,000.00 based on project.
    * 1st year MPA Interscholastic Special Olympics Unified Basketball & Volleyball applicants max request - $2,500.00
    * 2nd year MPA Interscholastic Special OlympicsUnified Basketball & Volleyball applicants max request - $2,000.00
    * 1st and 2nd year MPA Interscholastic Special Olympics Unified Track & Field applicants max request - $1,000.00
    * 1st and 2nd year Middle School Interscholastic Special Olympics Unified Basketball applicants max request - $2,000.00
Please note that schools that have received funding for 2+ years cannot apply for ANY funding unless the school has plans to start an additional Unified Sports program.  And also note that the same criteria and incorporation of the three Unified Schools components outlined above will apply.
Applications will be accepted until April 1, 2020 or until funding is exhausted.  Please review the application questions and draft responses prior to starting the application.  Special Olympics Maine 2019-20 Unified Schools Funding Questions.  Once the application has been started it will need to be completed/submitted at the same time; there is no way to save or re-enter at a later time. Once an application is submitted the School Administrator and Unified School Liaison will receive an email notification with the contents of their submitted application.
For more information, support or questions regarding the 2017-18 Unified Schools Funding Application contact Ian Frank (IanF@somaine.org or 879-0489).

Interested in learning more about how to start a Unified Champion Schools program in your school?

Click here to fill out the Special Olympics Maine Unified Champion Schools interest form.


  • Ian Frank
  • Unified Champion Schools, Training & Camp Tall Pines Director
  • Office: (207) 879-0489 x 14
  • Fax: 1 (888) 490-0672
  • IanF@somaine.org


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