Special Olympics bocce tournament builds lifelong friendships

NEW CASTLE, Delaware (WPVI) — “I just can’t believe it. I actually go to a Special Olympics game and play with other people,” said Hezikiah Rich. “It’s gonna be the funnest day of my life.”

Rich, a senior at William Penn High School, had the opportunity today to compete alongside his best pal, Brandon Eldridge. It was part of the Colonial School District’s partnership with the Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools program.

The program runs through different sports in different seasons. Today’s bocce ball tournament was just the first of an annual tradition in the Colonial School District.

“This year we’re down to three in every school district,” said Nate Threatts, manager of Unified Champion Schools for Special Olympics Delaware. “So we’re hoping to make this our next high school-level varsity sport, and we plan to do that with every school district in the state next year.”

Today’s event brought together three area schools, William Penn High, George Read Middle and Southern Elementary, to compete in a bocce match. But for some students, the score was only part of the story.

“It’s not competition stuff,” said Brandon Eldridge. “So it’s about taking turns, just being positive and if you lose that’s fine.”

Eldridge and Rich’s teacher, Luke Wittenbach, was proud of his students today. He hopes to expand the program in the future.

“We would like to fill the whole stadium with special education students to be able to participate in the tournament,” he said.

To learn more about Unified Champion Schools or Special Olympics Delaware, visit their websites.

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Alley Einstein

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