Special Olympics brings inclusion to campus

The North Texas Special Olympics, an official club on campus, is looking to offer opportunities designed to include the athletes in and out of the classroom.

Area Director Mike Strickland said he is excited for what the future looks like for special olympics on campus and his athletes are excited to have the opportunity.

“It’s astronomical what this will do to the university,” Strickland said. “I have one athlete who calls me once a week and asks when she can go to college.”

Strickland said that he has been working with the university to bring in unified classes such as theater, cooking, and gardening. Scott Darnell, parent of special olympics athlete Wes Darnell, said his excitement grew with the idea of integrating the athletes with college students arised.

“When the idea of the possibility of MSU offering classes geared toward individuals with learning disabilities was mentioned, the overall excitement and chance for inclusion amongst college students was very well received,” Darnell said. “Wes as always just wanted to be one of the guys and this would be a huge step for this community.”

Mallory LeDoux, Special Olympics coach, said she enjoys the bonds created between player and coach as well as the growth she sees in their abilities and as people.

“I would have to say that getting close with the athletes and seeing their progression is the best part,” LeDoux said. “It’s a very humbling and heartwarming experience that you can’t find anywhere else.”

College students have already been participating in the special olympics unified sports as partners, joining the athletes on the field as competitors and teammates. Finance junior Chuy Torres and partner of Special Olympic athletes, said he is inspired by the consistent positivity and uplifting energy that the athletes bring.

“They’re amazing, down to earth, and full of spirit individuals,” Torres said. “Every time I go out to the field and interact with the athletes, I instantly feel the love and positive energy.”