NAMPA -- Special Olympics Idaho is making a push for more schools to create athletic teams that can compete in sanctioned events. Nampa's Liberty Charter School is leading the way.
The school sponsors a unified basketball team is made of Special Olympics athletes from Legacy and Liberty charter schools as well as non-Special Olympics athletes.
The "Patriots" unified basketball team officially started this year and has been a big success.
"It's not about who wins or loses," said Patriots coach Alivia Wachsmith. "It doesn't matter who scores or who doesn't. It's that they are having an amazing time, you get to see the joy on their faces and it's awesome."
The team is comprised of six Special Olympics athletes, and 7 non-Special Olympics athletes.
"Last year we had a mock trial of it, had such a huge success that we decided to apply for a grant this year and we got it," said Liberty Charter Special Education Director Erica Gerber.
Recently, the Patriots played at the Special Olympics Regional tournament and won two out of three games. The smallest player was the highest scorer, and every point was cheered.
"At the game, every Special Olympics athlete scored multiple baskets," said Gerber. "The partners, they rebound the ball and pass it off to the athletes."
Liberty Charter is one of the first unified basketball teams at the high school level. The concept is all about inclusion on-and-off the court, said Shanna Endow, VP of Education and Outreach for Special Olympics Idaho.
"Those skills and those friendships and breaking down of those barriers actually transcends off the court and into the schools and into the community," said Endow.
Proud mom Irene Gans cheers at every game. Her son, Travis, loves making baskets and being on a team.
Gans has a message for other high schools -- "I challenge them to come on board and bring teams together, we'd love to play them, we'd love to beat them."
The team will compete in the Special Olympics State Tournament June 29th.
Liberty Charter is also looking at starting a unified track and field team in the near future.
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