On Thursday, June 29th, Abraham Lincoln High School‘s Unified Soccer team was invited to a Media Day with the Philadelphia Union in preparation for their Unified Exchange game on Saturday, August 5th against FC Dallas. In an ever-growing partnership with ESPN and MLS Works, Special Olympics participates in a Unified Exchange program which provides opportunities for Unified soccer teams to participate in a 1st Team MLS experience.  Unified soccer teams, comprised of players with and without intellectual disabilities, travel from their home city to other MLS markets to compete in exhibition matches with their Special Olympic counterparts. In Philadelphia, our Unified Team becomes the Unified Philadelphia Union!  Unified matches are scheduled in conjunction with MLS club matches, providing MLS fans with an opportunity to witness first-hand the talents and abilities of Special Olympics athletes and unified partners.

The day did not end there! After getting official letters and jerseys, it was time to pose for official Philadelphia Union headshots and moving headshots in their new uniforms to be broadcast on the big screen on August 5th against FC Dallas’ United team.  As if they could not be any more excited, the Lincoln team got to watch the first team practice – they were so inspired by their practice, they started practicing alongside them! As the sun started to bring the heat, our student-athletes got a chance to cool off with a tour of the players’ home away from home and toured the building that houses Philadelphia Union’s training, nutrition, and relaxation facilities used by the professional soccer players.

On the ride home, many athletes shared Lincoln striker, Brandon’s sentiment about how honored he was to be contracted by the Philadelphia Union and how excited he was to play in the Unified Exhibition in August. Kelvin, another Lincoln athlete, even remarked how today was the best day of his life!  

Join us on August 5th as we watch Philadelphia Union take on FC Dallas and then stay afterward to watch the Unified Exchange Game! The Philadelphia Union/FC Dallas game starts at 7:00 pm and the Unified Exchange Game is right after (on the field!). If you purchase a ticket through this link, you will be sitting among the Unified Star Players! Tickets are $35.00 each and can be purchased here.


After months of hard work and determination, 9 schools from the Philadelphia area gathered for the 5th annual Unified Soccer Championships. George Washington High School hosted the 2017 Unified Soccer Championship on May 30. Two of George Washington’s very own students, Angel Rosa and Alyssa Henry, kicked things off with a great introduction to their school and emcee, Marc Zumoff, announcer for the Philadelphia 76ers on. Zumoff was beyond excited to be at the Championship and commenced the event with a parade of athletes. The roster included Abraham Lincoln High School, Audenried High School, Frankford High School, Martin Luther King High School, School of the Future, Sayre High School, Thomas Edison High School, and hostGeorge Washington High School. The crowds roared with applause as each team paraded across the field. After the athletes and partners took their seats, it was time for the Frankford High School Color Guard to present the colors. Before the national anthem was played, there was a moment of silence for Brandon Santos, a George Washington soccer and bocce player who passed away prior to the Championship. Britt Kleine, Director of Special Olympics PA – Philadelphia gave remarks to the crowd which included honoring Brandon’s memory by reminding students that playing and living unified isn’t confined to when they participate in Special Olympics activities, but rather a way of life, a life of inclusion. Matthew Aaron, President, and CEO of Special Olympics PA echoed those sentiments with stories he has heard from athletes and partners across the state.

Opening Ceremonies continued with Angel and Alyssa returning to the podium to give their experiences and how the Interscholastic Unified Sports program has made an impact on their lives. Ronald, Faheem, and Brooke, then lead the athletes and partners in the Special Olympics Athlete Oath that emphasizes the importance of sportsmanship over victory. Next, George Washington Coaches Yvonne Schwiker and Lori Solomon lead coaches in the Coaches Oath. With the reciting of the oaths complete, it was time for the highlight of Opening Ceremonies, the lighting of the cauldron! Philadelphia Police Highway patrol officers led the Flame of Hope procession on motorcycles as Deputy Commissioner, Dennis Wilson, marched alongside eager athletes and partners carrying the torch. The ignition of the Special Olympics cauldron sent a surge of energy through the crowds as Ronald, Faheem, and Brooke kept the excitement up by declaring the games OPEN!

The competition was spread across six fields and each field held tremendous competition. Most of the matches were close calls as each athlete and partner had their eye on the trophy and gold medal that could soon be theirs. As each team gave their all, spectators and coaches were there to support their favorite team and witness the true joy of sport. However, the fun was not limited to the competition. Olympic Village featured cornhole, lawn games, soccer in an inflatable field.  Plenty of delicious, and nutritious snacks and souvenirs were also available. Thank you to our great partners, Philadelphia Union, Shop Rite of Morrell Plaza, EAT.RIGHT.NOW, and Dave and Buster’s for providing a festive Olympic Village! Although there was a little shower throughout the day, smiles were abundant at the Unified Soccer Championship!



by Lexy Pierce



Blue Division
Green Division
Red Division
1st Place
Abraham Lincoln 1 Furness 1 Sayre 2
2nd Place
Thomas Edison 1 Audenried 2 Abraham Lincoln 2
3rd Place
Martin Luther King 2 Thomas Edison 2 Furness 2
4th Place
George Washington 1 School of the Future 2 Sayre 1
5th Place
Audenried 1 George Washington 2 Frankford 2
6th Place
School of the Future 1 Martin Luther King 2 Frankford 1


Round Robin/Medal Scores:

Round Robin
Field 1
Field 2
Field 3
Field 4
Field 5
Field 6
Round 1
TE1 (5) vs. GW1 ( 2) SOF1 (1) vs. MLK1 (3) GW2 (0) vs. AUD2 (0) FURN1 (4) vs. TE2 (1) SAY1 (1) vs. AL2 (1) FRANK1 (2) vs. SAY2 (2)
Round 2
GW1 (3) vs. AUD2 (2) MLK1 (2) vs. AL1 (4) AUD2 (1) vs. SOF2 (0) TE2 (6) vs. MLK2 (0) AL2 (3) vs. FRNK2 (0) FRNK1 (0) vs. FURN2 (2)
Round 3
AUD1 (1) vs. TE1 (5) AL1 (5) vs. SOF1 (1) GW2 (0) vs. SOF2 (1) MLK2 (2) vs. FURN1 (4) FRNK2 (0) vs. SAY1 (0) FRANK1 (0) vs. FURN2 (2)
Medal Round
TE1 (1) vs.  AL1 (6) AUD2(0) vs FURN1(2) AL2 (2) vs. SAY2 (4)

GW1(0) vs. MLK1(1)

SOF2(1) vs. TE2(2) SAY1(2) vs. FURN2(6)

On Tuesday, April 4, 2017, SOPA Philly hosted a Unified Bocce Demonstration at the School District of Philadelphia Head Quarters (440) in the atrium for all to see! The two winning teams from our Philadelphia Unified Bocce Championship championship that did not advance to Hershey – a team from Thomas Edison and another from George Washington, along with a team from Kensington HS joined us at 440 to take part in this fun day.

There was a small program prior to the demonstration where a partner from the George Washington team who played in Hershey addressed the crowd and shared their experience in Hershey, and then two athletes from Edison.

The Edison and George Washington teams played off against one another to demonstrate a skilled game and teammates from Kensington played alongside administrative personnel from within the school building who came down to experience the magic of Unified firsthand. Not only did administrative personnel come down to play, there was a crowd watching the showcase, including from the balconies above. 

Photos from the Showcase

On Tuesday, October 25, 2016, thirteen high schools came together for training to be student leaders in their respective schools at Special Olympics Philadelphia’s “I Have a Voice” Unified Youth Summit. The Philadelphia School District hosted the summit at their headquarters with support from HOBY, and The Philadelphia Foundation. Schools in attendance at the Unified Youth Summit were: Abraham Lincoln High School, Frankford High School, Furness High School, George Washington High School, High School of the Future, Hill Freedman High School, Martin Luther King Jr High School, Parkway West High School, Sayre High School, Simon Gratz High School, South Philadelphia High School, Thomas Edison High School, and Universal Audenried Charter High School.

The day started with opening remarks from President and CEO of Special Olympics PA, Matthew Aaron, Director of Special Olympics PA – Philadelphia, Britt Kleine. After opening remarks had been made, Brandon Velez-Roa and Kenny Brough from Abraham Lincoln High School shared how the Interscholastic Unified Sports (IUS) Program has it brought them together and made a huge impact on their lives. Superintendent, Dr. Hite, gave some remarks and inspired the students in attendance to learn as much as the could during the summit to continue making a positive change within their school. 

The main part of the day was a presentation from by Kevin Grace, from Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership (HOBY). Kevin lead the students in exercises about working together and setting goals. At the end of the presentation, students constructively discussed issues in their schools and how they could implement change in those situations by creating a game plan that the could execute in the academic year.

Youth Leadership is one of the components of the Interscholastic Unified Sports (IUS) Program, a program that brings individuals with and without intellectual disabilities together to train and compete on the same sports team as well as make a change in their school through a Unified School Club. Through these clubs, students act as leaders and promote inclusion through Whole School Engagement Activites. 


This past Tuesday and Thursday, Special Olympics Pennsylvania – Philadelphia held our first IUS League Bocce games! It was exciting to see so many athletes and partners take the court to show off their bocce skills and show great sportsmanship after their individual game concluded. George Washington High School hosted our first games on Tuesday, February 9th and Abraham Lincoln High School hosted our second games on Thursday, February 11th. Thank you to both schools for being incredible hosts and opening your gyms for other schools and our volunteers and making sure everyone felt welcomed!

In total there were 19 teams participating from 7 schools between both days. Schools who came out were: Abraham Lincoln High School, George Washington High School, High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, High School of the Future, Parkway West High School,   Simon Gratz High School, Thomas Edison High School. The competition was intense, yet full of energy. As an athlete or partner lined up to roll, there was almost complete silence on the court. As the bocce ball found it’s final resting place, the team would who rolled would erupt in cheers and clapping. With all of this excitement from the league games, we can’t wait to see what the Championship on Thursday, March 3rd at Thomas Edison High School brings!

Tuesday’s results:

George Washington: Washington, High School of the Future: Future, Simon Gratz: Gratz, Thomas Edison: Edison

Court 1
Court 2
Court 3
Court 4
Round 1

Washington 1: 5

Future 2: 6

Washington 2:  5

Future 3:  4

Washington 3: 11

Gratz 1: 3

Future 1: 4

Edison 1: 7

Round 2

Washington 4: 8

Edison 2: 2

 Washington 1: 4

Future 4: 2

Washington 2: 11

Future 2: 1

Washington 3: 6

Future 3: 8

Round 3

Gratz 1: 3

Future 1: 7

Washington 4: 15

Edison 1: 4

Washington 1: 11

Edison 2: 1

Round 4

Washington 2: 6

Future 4: 4 

Washington 3: 3

Future 2: 6

Gratz 1: 5

Future 3: 4

Round 5

Future 1: 4

Edison 1: 2

Washington 4: 3

Edison 2: 5

Washington 1: 9

Future: 2



Thursday’s results:

Abraham Lincoln: Lincoln, HS of the Creative and Performing Arts: CAPA, Parkway West: Parkway

Court 1
Court 2
Court 3
Court 4
Round 1

Lincoln 1: 10

Parkway 2: 1

Lincoln 2: 7

Parkway 3: 4

Abraham Lincoln 3: 7

CAPA 1: 5

Parkway 1: 6

CAPA 2: 1

Round 2

Lincoln 1: 3

CAPA 2: 7

Lincoln 2: 4

Parkway 2: 11

Lincoln 3: 3

Parkway 3: 10

Parkway 1: 4

CAPA 1: 6

Round 3

Parkway 3: 6

CAPA 1: 2

Lincoln 2: 6

CAPA 2: 3

Lincoln 1: 3

Parkway 1: 9

Lincoln 3: 3

Parkway 2: 6



For more photos, please click here.

On Thursday, December 10th, Special Olympics Philadelphia held its 1st Elementary and Middle School Bocce Tournament. Twenty teams made up of over 100 students from Penrose, Austin Meehan Middle School, and Universal Daroff Charter participated in what was sure to be remembered event. The energy and excitement level rival a Friday night football game. Athletes and partners alike, cheered on each other as awards were handed out. Austin Meehan swept the top three spots in the middle school competition. Penrose took home first at the elementary level while Universal Daroff Charter rounded the medals out with silver and bronze. We are looking forward to next year’s competition already.

Huge thank you to Penrose Elementary School for hosting this historic event! Thank you to all of the coaches and principals from Penrose, Austin Meehan and Universal Daroff as well as the Philadelphia School District for your continued support and for helping make this dream a reality! An additional thank you to all of the volunteers who helped run this event!


On Friday, November 27th, three athletes along with their dates attended the 136th annual Philadelphia Charity Ball. Special Olympics PA has been the beneficiary of the ball for multiple years, and was the beneficiary again this year. Special Olympics athletes Ian Capacio and Ally Rutizer attended the Ball along with Interscholastic Unified Sports (IUS) athlete Brandon Velez-Roa who took IUS partner, Katlyn Geist as his date.

Brandon Velez-Roa, who is a student at Abraham Lincoln High School, received the Jimmy Award at the 2015 Philadelphia Charity Ball. The Jimmy Medal identifies and celebrates individuals who make a positive difference in the lives of others. Though their actions they exemplify the virtues of resiliency, humility, empathy and loyalty.

Brandon participates as an athlete in both Unified Bocce and Soccer with Special Olympics at his school. “Brandon is a fantastic athlete who loves competing and displays tremendous effort and attitude both on and off the field,” said his coach Michael Turchi. His peers and teachers would describe him as kind, friendly, coachable and very lovable young man. Brandon’s outgoing and optimistic demeanor have made him not only a great athlete, but also a wonderful friend and role model for all the students at Abraham Lincoln High School. He has participated with his fellow team and classmates in the Spread the Word to End the Word Campaign at Abraham Lincoln High School, which is a Special Olympics initiative that brings education and light to the word ‘retard’. Through the Spread the Word to End the Word Campaign, students pledge not to use the ‘R’ word and by making that pledge they promote respect and an inclusive climate for all students. Brandon truly embodies the four pillars of the Jimmy Award: Resiliency, Empathy, Humility and Loyalty and Coach Turchi along with Special Olympics Philadelphia are honored to nominate him to receive this accolade.

Check out the photos of the event by Bowden Photographics.


The Unified Youth Summit starts school year on right track! Seven schools within the Philadelphia School District sent their youth leaders to attend our Unified Youth Summit as part of our Interscholastic Unified Sports (IUS) program. The day started off with Britt Kleine, Director of Special Olympics Philadelphia, welcoming all of the students, coaches and school staff. Jordan Schubert, Special Olympics Chester County athlete and Special Olympics Pennsylvania staff member, was the Keynote Speaker. Jordan shared his journey through high school and college and how Special Olympics and the Unified movement impacted his life. After an inspirational keynote address, it was time to educate our student leaders on how they too could start their Special Olympics journey like Jordan. 

Our student leaders were excited to learn about the various components of the program (Unified Sports, Unified Youth Committee, and Whole School Engagement) and a new initiative Special Olympics Philadelphia is launching to help them with their Whole School Engagement – the Cool Schools Challenge as part of our inaugural Philadelphia Polar Plunge! After a brief presentation, students broke out by school to discuss how to engage students in their respective school, how to run meetings and decide on ideas to run with. After each breakout session, a representative from each school reported out to all of the student leaders. 

The Summit ended with by our student leaders taking a pledge to be the agents of change within their schools and pledging to Plunge at the Cool Schools portion of the Philadelphia Plunge to show the public that they support for inclusion and respect. Before everyone left, we took a group picture and individual school pictures with the Philadelphia Polar Plunge mascot, whose name was announced earlier during the Summit! The students loved taking pictures with the newly named mascot, Chilladelphia! 

Schools who attend the Unified Youth Summit include:

  • Abraham Lincoln HS
  • Universal Charter Audenried High School
  • Frankford HS
  • Furness HS
  • High School of the Future
  • Martin Luther King HS
  • Thomas Edison HS

Special Olympics Project UNIFY is an education-based project, funded by the U.S. Department of Education that uses the sports and education programs of Special Olympics to activate young people across the U.S in order to promote school communities where all young people are agents of change – fostering respect, dignity and advocacy for people with intellectual disabilities. Special Olympics believes that through sports young people can make a difference in friendships, schools and communities.

Project UNIFY initiatives include a host of core activities, both on the national and the grass-roots level. Local projects that meet Project UNIFY objectives are supported through a funding process for U.S. Special Olympics Programs.

Special Olympics Project UNIFY incorporates sports and related activities, however, in this new way of operating (youth-centered, school focused) there is an enhancement in current programs and paradigms from a focus on events to committing to a movement advocating for youth as change agents now and in the future. To learn more, click here.

Third-grade class acted as Fans in the Stands at our 2015 Unified Soccer Championship held for our Interscholastic Unified Sport (IUS) program within Philadelphia high schools. This is a post from Need in Deed’s Facebook page on June 12, 2015. They are posting about a third grade class from McCall School.  We were thrilled they could join us for the day to celebrate inclusion on and off the soccer field.



Ms. Hantman’s 3rd graders from McCall School were passionate about celebrating the amazing skills on display at Northeast High School for the recent Special Olympics Pennsylvania – Philadelphia Soccer Tournament where Philadelphia students with intellectual disabilities competed for prizes. The Need in Deed 3rd graders are winding down their service learning project on Special Needs Populations. Among so many other things they want to do, they knew the local Special Olympics event needed a great cheering section. They wrote cheers, made banners and designed their own tee-shirts. Ms. Bottaro’s 5th graders even helped make pom poms out of used plastic bags as part of their efforts to reduce plastic bag waste! Finally the day arrived. We know it’s hard to imagine how great it was, so we took lots of pictures to help you celebrate with us.


The 2015 Interscholastic Unified Sports Youth Summit on June 10, 2015 was a huge success! Athletes and partners represented a few of our IUS Philadelphia schools, and they all did a great job. 2015 Philly IUS SummitMany things were discussed during the day, and the athletes and partners had talks about what they enjoyed about the IUS program, as well as what can be added to make the program run smoother. Both the athletes and partners had fun while participating in the program, and they also made lifelong friends in the process.

They started the day by listening to two guest speakers and then split into different groups to work on team-building and ice-breaking exercises. The ideas that they gave us for next year’s IUS program were awesome, and we can’t wait to see if we can put them into practice. The energy and excitement that everyone had while participating is what really made this IUS Youth Summit such a huge success. Hearing from the kids who are directly involved with the program gives us a great opportunity to upgrade the program for the future. We would like to thank everyone who came out and spoke or helped. We would also like to extend a huge thank you to The School District of Philadelphia for its hospitality!