Melissa Darter shares words of Unified Partner team

Susan EspirituOur Town Youth, Powell

Every four years we celebrate the Olympic Games as not only a platform for recognizing athletic achievements but also for promoting unity and friendship among nations. For the past 50 years, Special Olympics has been spreading the same message: people with intellectual disabilities can and will succeed when given the chance. Special Olympics is “the most credible charity in America” according to a survey in the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Special Olympic events at Powell High School 2023-Photo credit KCS Hall Pass

Last Monday and Tuesday, elementary, middle and high school special education students from across several counties participated in the Greater Knoxville Special Olympics Track and Field event at Powell High School, hosted by Powell High staff, led by Tami Smith.

Track and field events including relay races, long jumps and softball throws were run by volunteers from TVA, KUB, Target and Octapharma, to name a few.

My friend Melissa Darter spoke with one of the Unified Partner Teams. Unified Sports joins people of similar age and ability with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team. Melissa spoke with the team of Brayden Shreve, Lincoln Bryant, Johnathon Dennis and Kevin Stewart. Shreve and Bryant were the unified partners to athletes Dennis and Stewart and as a team, they ran the 4X1 relay.

I was fortunate to see the video interview and honored to relate it here. The teammates were excited to tell Darter how much they enjoyed the practices they had together, even though they had been long and difficult. When asked about the experience, a smiling Lincoln Bryant said, “I am excited, really teed up! “Brayden Shreve echoed his partner’s sentiment adding, “It’s fun to help out.”

Athletes Dennis and Stewart both said they liked helping their team get better along with their favorite event being running while not being fans of the softball throw or the long jump when questioned by Halter. “No, we just like running,” they laughed. Listening to these young men speak about their experience and deepening friendship with respect for each other was deeply rewarding.

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