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CSU garners national recognition from Special Olympics

Colorado State University is now the only university to receive national recognition from the Special Olympics for its partnership with the Special Olympics and the inclusive opportunities it provides. 

CSU, along with four high schools in Florida, Kentucky, Texas and Washington, is among the first five schools to meet the 10 national standards of inclusion and to be distinguished as a National Banner School as part of the Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools National Recognition Program, according to an article published by CSU SOURCE.

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According to the article, each school was nominated by its state’s Special Olympics program and will take part in a national banner presentation.

“We’ve always worked with the Special Olympics,” said Patrick Krza, director of community engagement and fan experience for CSU athletics. “We’re just trying to give opportunities to those Special Olympians as well as our student athletes.”

The unified rivalry game, which happens every year during the same week as the Rocky Mountain Showdown, allows Special Olympics Unified teams from Fort Collins and Boulder to compete in a flag football game.

Krza said CSU and the University of Colorado Boulder started the unified rivalry game four years ago and were the first two universities west of the Mississippi to do something like this.

We do these things without the intention of gaining any kind of recognition.” -Joe Parker, CSU director of athletics

This event is only one example of the work CSU does within its partnership with the Special Olympics.

“The sky’s the limit; we can do whatever is comfortable with them,” Kzra said. “We were talking about moving into a basketball unified rivalry game, and they come and play at some of our basketball games at halftime. We just try to help them in any way we can.”

Joe Parker, CSU director of athletics, said these kinds of events have always been important to CSU regardless of national recognition. 

“We do these things without the intention of gaining any kind of recognition,” Parker wrote in an email to The Collegian. “It’s something that’s been consistently a part of our DNA and is who we are.”

Parker said he gives a lot of credit to Krza for putting a big focus on the unified games and for figuring out ways to enhance the unified football game. 

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I’m blessed to be a part of a department that cares and wants to make a difference in our community.” -Patrick Krza, director of community engagement, fan experience at CSU athletics

Kzra said receiving such an award is an honor, but he wants to emphasize that CSU would be providing these opportunities regardless. 

“First and foremost, we do this stuff because it’s the right thing to do,” Kzra said. “It’s not a me thing or a one-person thing or a one-department thing. It’s an all-athletics thing. It’s an all-university thing. That’s kind of our mantra: Do it because it’s the right thing to do.”

CSU will be formally recognized by the Special Olympics and ESPN in November. 

“They want to really recognize what CSU means to the Special Olympics,” Kzra said. “Our partnership is very, very strong, and we support them in any way we can, and to get that award is another way we can really recognize the Special Olympians as well. It’s not just about CSU but about them as well.”

Kzra said in the future, CSU will continue to work with the Special Olympics and provide opportunities for everyone in the community. 

“I’m blessed to be a part of a department that cares and wants to make a difference in our community,” Kzra said. “It’s one of our top priorities. It’s not just about going out and playing on a Saturday night. It’s more than that, and that’s the kind of stuff we need in our world — to selflessly look at other things … (and) how we can affect other people in our community and beyond.”

Ceci Taylor can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @cecelia_twt.

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