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It was a hot and muggy evening for a soccer game, but that did not slow down our Unified Team or the Philadelphia Union. On July 31, 2016 prior to the Philadelphia Union vs Real Salt Lake match, our George Washington High School Unified Soccer Team was honored for their win against the Colorado Rapids earlier in May. The George Washington Unified Soccer Team competed as the Philadelphia Union during an exchange game made possible by the collaboration of Special Olympics, MLS Works and ESPN. Each year, through the Unified Sports soccer exchange program, Unified soccer teams from MLS cities travel to other MLS markets to receive training from MLS players and coaches, as well as compete in exhibition matches with their Special Olympics counterparts in that MLS market. Special Olympics Philadelphia has had the amazing opportunity to represent the Philadelphia Union. In the last three years as our Unified Team has taken on a Unified D.C. United, Unified NJ Red Bulls, and this year, a Unified Colorado Rapids.
As the Philadelphia Union warmed up, our Unified Team watched from the sidelines as they also prepared to walk on another MLS Field. As they entered the field, the journey of their trip to Denver to played on the jumbo screen. The video, which originally aired on The State of the Union on June 17, 2016 can be viewed here. Our athletes, partners, coaches, and some lucky supporters made their way onto the field with huge smiles on their faces to be recognized. As they stood midfield, they waved to a roaring crowd. As our Unified Team exited the field, the Sons of Ben, the Philadelphia Union Fan Club, gave each member of the team a Sons of Ben Membership Pin to officially integrate them into the pack. After an amazing experience on the field, our Unified Team took to the stands to cheer on the Philadelphia Union as they took on rivals Real Salt Lake. During halftime, our Unified Team met up with Marisa Pilla, Host/Sideline Reporter for Philadelphia Union Pregame Live, to grab a quick picture on set!
On Thursday, March 3rd eight Philadelphia high schools met at Thomas Edison High School for the 2016 IUS Bocce Championship – the first in Philadelphia to determine which two bocce teams would advance to the state competition in Hershey, PA. George Washington High School, Abraham Lincoln High School, Thomas Edison High School, School of the Future, CAPA, Parkway West High School, Simon Gratz and South Philadelphia High School came with their school spirit and drive to be one of the top two teams to advance.
Britt Kleine, Director of Special Olympics Pennsylvania – Philadlephia, kicked off the Opening Ceremonies where President and CEO of Special Olympics Pennsylvania, Matthew Aaron, and Director of Health, Safety and Physical Education of the Philadelphia School District, Bettyann Creighton, welcomed students, teachers, coaches, and fans to the event. Thomas Edison High School had a heavy hand in the Opening Cermonies as the Thomas Edison High School ROTC presented the colors, Thomas Edison High School Teacher and IUS coach, Josh Bower, lead coaches in the coaches oath, and Thomas Edison athlete Tyrik Walter declared the 2016 IUS Bocce Championship open! To lead athletes and partners in the athlete oath was Special Olympics State Unified Youth Committee Representatives from High School of the Future, Athlete and Partner, Tymair Boyer and Djibril Diall.
After Tyrik Walter declared the Championship open, athletes who were playing in round 1 rushed to their courts for the first 20 minute game. Following Round 1 were two more rounds of intense competition with teams trying to seal their spot in the semi-finals. After the third round, there was a pause in play while scores were added up to determine which teams would move on to the semi-finals. However, the pause in games did not cause our athletes and partners to sit still. The DJ cranked up the tunes and a dance party took over Thomas Edison’s gymnasium. Although the Special Olympics Pennsylvania – Philadelphia staff was sad to break up the dance party, they had the important task of announcing the 8 teams to move on to the semi-finals (in alphabetical order): Lincoln 2, School of the Future 1, School of the Future 2, School of the Future 4, Thomas Edison 1, Thomas Edison 2, Washington 1, and Washington 2.
While some schools did not advance, they were able to take advantage of some amazing sponsors of the event. On the sidelines were ShopRite giving out healthy snacks and water, Thomas Edison students educating their peers on how much sugar is in various drinks and providing naturally flavored water options available in strawberry, cucumber, lemon and lime, and Eat. Right. Now., a Philadelphia School District initiative providing nutrition education for a healthier future.
After the semi-finals, four teams took to the court to find out which two teams would advance to the state’s 2nd Annual IUS Bocce Tournament at the Giant Center in Hershey, PA. After intense competition – including two teams coming within .5 inches apart from the polina for the point two teams were given gold medals to advance to the IUS Bocce Tournament. Congratulations to George Washington 1 and School of the Future 4 who will advance to Hershey!
At the end of the day, all of our athletes lived true to our oath, “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt“. Each athlete and partner put their skills to the test and gave it their all and so we congratulate everyone on games well played. We also want to thank all of the volunteers who contributed their time and for making this a memorable event for all – and the coaches who continuously give our athletes and partners guidance – both on and off the bocce court.
Washington 1 (6) vs. South Philadelphia 1 (4)
Washington 2 (6) vs. South Philadelphia 2 (4)
Washington 3 (2) vs. Lincoln 2 (9)
Washington 4 (10) vs. Lincoln 3 (2)
Lincoln 1 (1) vs. Parkway West 2 (5)
School of the Future 4 (6) vs. CAPA 2 (3)
School of the Future 2 (3) vs. CAPA 1 (5)
Lincoln 4 (3) vs. Simon Gratz (2)
South Philadelphia 1 (2) vs. Parkway West 1 (8)
South Philadelphia 2 (6) vs. Parkway West 3 (2)
Lincoln 2 (10) vs. School of the Future 3 (2)
Lincoln 3 (7) vs. School of the Future 1 (3)
Edison 2 (6) vs. Lincoln 1 (1)
Parkway West 2 (0) vs. School of the Future 4 (8)
Edison 1 (3) vs. School of the Future 2 (7)
CAPA 1 (3) vs. Lincoln 4 (6)
Parkway West 1 (2) vs. Washington 1 (7)
Parkway West 3 (0) vs. Washington 2 (10)
School of the Future 3 (3) vs. Washington 3 (12)
School of the Future 1 (14) vs. Washington 4 (2)
CAPA 2 (3) vs. Edison 2 (5)
Simon Gratz 1 (3) vs. Edison 1 (6)
SEMI FINALS 1
Washington 1 (8) vs. Washington 2 (2)
Lincoln 2 (8) vs. School of the Future 1 (7)
SEMI FINALS 2
School of the Future 4 (6) vs. Edison 2 (5)
School of the Future 2 (3) vs. Edison 1 (11)
3rd/4th Place: George 2 (11) vs. School of the Future 1 (3)
Finals: George 1 (6) vs. Lincoln 2 (4)
3rd/4th Place: School of the Future 2 (3) vs. Edison 2 (5)
Finals: School of the Future 4 (8) vs. Edison 1 (3)