DES MOINES, Iowa — The Des Moines Public School District is offering something a little different when it comes to its sports and clubs selection; the introduction of unified club sports. Roosevelt High School is the only school in the district where disabled and non-disabled students can play on the same school-sponsored team together — for unified bowling.
“We`ve never been on the same team together, so I think that makes it extra special,” says Evie Sly, a senior at Roosevelt. Her bowling partner Joy Rector has Down syndrome. She says being part of a team where everyone can play makes her proud. “It feels like I’m a part of a group. A group means I can be family with all my friends. It makes me happy.”
The club sport is thanks to a $2,000 grant awarded to the pair after they traveled overseas this spring as US Ambassadors with Special Olympics. The feeling of inclusiveness is just as important to those who have been left out as it is for the students who can help others fit in.
“We’re out here hanging out with new people, understanding that everyone has different abilities and we all have our strengths and weaknesses,” says Sly. “I think it’s important to recognize that because sometimes people are put in the shadows and I’m sick of that.”
The pair hope to expand unified sports at Roosevelt beyond bowling to include activities like track and basketball by the end of the school year. They would like to see the idea of unified club sports catch on at other schools in the district. The club’s first bowling is meet on Thursday, October 17th at the Bowlerama in Des Moines where athletes will compete with other unified and Special Olympic teams.