Colorado State University’s Special Olympic College hosted a unified flag football tournament against the University of Northern Colorado for the first time Saturday.
The Special Olympic College works with CSU to become more inclusive with Special Olympic athletes. They cater to athletes with developmental disabilities with guidance by Jeff Franklyn, the Special Olympic Northeast Regional Manager.
The unified team consisted of CSU students and special olympic athletes and was the organization’s first stand-alone event on campus.
The main goal of the Special Olympic College is to create unified intramural sports through the CSU Recreation Center within the next year, according to Laura Brunner, the president and co-founder of the organization.
The organization is still new, which has made it difficult to recruit and maintain committed members for the team. Despite the difficulties, there are many members who are committed to make a difference, Brunner said.
“These athletes are so talented and some of them love CSU more than anything,” Brunner said. “Being around these athletes creates a genuine good feeling that lasts for a long time.”
For the tournament, the Special Olympic athletes split themselves up into two teams of CSU and UNC students and played a total of two games. Each team won a game, but Brunner said who won was not a concern to the athletes.
“It was a very relaxed and go with the flow event,” Brunner said. “By the end, everyone was too focused on the free pizza to care much about who won.”
Though the purpose of the organization is to provide more inclusion for Special Olympic athletes, the CSU student athletes noticed the impact it made on them.
“Everyone involved — the athletes, partners, spectators, parents and refs — takes something positive when they leave,” Stephen Haag said, a CSU student athlete. “There are very few people that I have met in my life who are genuinely happy at all times, and I met all of them playing in Special Olympics.”
There are no further events planned for this year, but the Special Olympic College plans to continue events in the fall.
Collegian news reporter Katie Marshall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @katie_marshall3.