A Close Knit Group

Photo by Armando Maldonado ’21 White Team after the state flag football game.

By: Joelle Macke ’20, Courtney Vale ’19

Senior Katie Anselmi joined Project Unified to “try something new.” What she found was an inseparable bond with the athletes, as well as other coaches.

Getting to know the athletes, “has taught me a lot of patience with myself and others. It has taught me what it means to love and what that looks like in action,” Anselmi said.

Project Unified, or Special Olympics, is an organization that has created a safe and nurturing community for many athletes– children and adults alike–with intellectual and physical disabilities. This program is one largest in the world for people with disabilities, taking place in 172 countries and holding more than 100,000 events every year. Athletics include, track and field, swimming, gymnastics, basketball, football, and many more.

Coaches, athletes, and partners all join Special Olympics to create memories and new friendships, as well as to play the sports they love. This year, that was very evident during the Project Unified pep rally here at our very own Regis Jesuit on November fifth. All of the coaches and athletes displayed their love and support for each other during the game with high fives, cheers, and hugs.

Regis Jesuit Special Olympics club members are closely involved with hundreds of athletes around the world.  Students, Will Munro, Olivia Hernandez, and athletes, Tyler Glenn and Aaron Schmidt, attended the Special Olympics East Asian Youth Summit in Shanghai, China during this past September.

Regis Jesuit, supports an extraordinary program where students compete and assist these athletes, creating a positive environment. Project Unified consists of three seasons: football, basketball, and soccer. They divide into two teams, red and white. Abby Fox and Will Munro are coaches for the red team, while Olivia Hernandez and Luke Maxfield coach the white team. Each athlete is partnered up with a Regis Jesuit student to help assist them one on one.

Katie Anselmi considers winning the Special Olympics flag football state championships earlier this year at CSU as her favorite memory from the club. As a member of the red team this victory was a major highlight of her experience in the Project Unified club here at Regis Jesuit. She proudly wears her medal and has been touched by all of the athletes, especially Travis, who is her partner.

Travis has been a part of Project Unified through Regis’ program for over five years. He joined to create a bond with the coaches, the teammates, and the partners. Football is his favorite, but he also attends soccer and basketball. The partners have been a huge influence on him.

They “amaze me with their hard work and by getting to know them,” Travis said. They have taught him how to have confidence and to always remain positive in and outside of Project Unified.

Other partners such as senior Luke Raffa joined Project Unified just this year because he “wanted to get to know the players and have a good time with them, and take every single opportunity to be with [the athletes].” Ever since Luke joined special Olympics as a coach for the red team he’s managed to get to know most of the players and help them become better athletes. Luke’s athlete partner in the program is Tyler.  

Tyler has been a part of Project Unified for about six years. He decided to join Project Unified to “experience all the games, and play with all my (his) friends.”

Tyler recounts the time he scored a goal, and celebrated by breaking into his infamous “choo choo dance.” Luke Raffa, along with Tyler, remember their football season when “I (Luke), threw Chaz a touchdown and he just had the biggest smile on his face, it was awesome.”

Both the coaches and athletes will always cherish and remember these memories. Going forward in Unified’s basketball season both Luke and Tyler hope to spread the word for Project Unified’s importance as well as they both want to “win as many games as possible, play well, and get closer with all my friends.”

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