FLINT TWP. – A unique partnership with Special Olympics will give Carman-Ainsworth athletes with special needs a marquee basketball experience starting this winter. In the spring, a bocce ball team will also be formed.
Angie Middleton will coach the Unified team that will put three athletes and two student partners from within Carman-Ainsworth High on the court. There will also be a Unified cheer team said Carman-Ainsworth Athletic Director Mary Haslinger.
Haslinger explained that the Unified team will play the same night as the varsity basketball teams, with their game in between the girls’ and boys’ games so they can experience the noise, the crowd and the cheerleaders.
“The Michigan High School Athletic Association has approved for our varsity players to be partners, but since they play the same night, we wanted to reach out to some of our other students so they can partner with the Unified players,” said Haslinger. “This is a cool program that gives the kids an opportunity to play a varsity sport with the entire atmosphere of the crowd cheering, the cheerleaders and on the same night as the varsity teams. We are really excited about this program.”
Middleton, who has been a special education teacher in the district for 10 years, said of the new program. “I work in a Cognitively Impaired (CI) self-contained classroom, teaching core academic and life skills classes to a broad range of students with disabilities. I became involved with our Unified team when an announcement was made about volunteers needed for the program during a Special Ed. meeting in October. I reached out to Mary (Haslinger) and we have been learning as we go ever since.
“I have a 13-year-old daughter with ASD who participates in Special Olympics, so the cause is close to my heart. I hope the athletes will gain self-confidence, form true friendships, learn team building skills, and most importantly, feel they belong as part of CAHS and have fun! I am excited to be a part of this program that will impact the whole student body with an expectation of acceptance and inclusion of ALL our students.”
Haslinger said the first Unified game will take place on Dec. 10 against Davison followed by a Dec. 13 game against Grand Blanc. A game with Midland has also been finalized.