CMU Honored as Unified Champion School

MT. PLEASANT – Five years ago, Central Michigan University began bringing together students and Special Olympics athletes as part of a first-of-its-kind intramural unified league.

The league allows for students and Special Olympics athletes to compete on the same teams.

Now some five years later, there are more than 150 intramural unified programs throughout the country.

On Tuesday the university was acknowledged as one of five colleges in the country to be a Unified Champion School. Three of the five recognized colleges are from Michigan as CMU joins Michigan State and Adrian College in receiving the distinction.

“It’s a big reward for our students and athletes that are involved,” Special Olympics Senior Director of Program Leadership Dan Ekonen said. “For us to be able to be honored at that level and to know that what started a few years ago on campus is now being recognized for all the hard work of our students and our athletes is extremely exciting.

“It was just the excitement behind it. And the inclusion that it kind of led to. To see where it’s grown is just that more awesome. We’re really proud to be a part of that.”

The intramural unified league has established a community and a sense of bond between the Special Olympians and students.

“Oh, it’s wonderful,” Special Olympian Timmy Doty said. “I know all the people I see every day. It means everything. I put my heart and soul onto the court and I leave it there.”

For the CMU students that participate in the league, it has been an especially rewarding experience.

“It’s been an awesome experience,” CMU student Andrea Schweitzer said. “I’ve learned so much through it. You come here. You can have a bad day. And they brighten your mood.”

As part of the recognition, CMU received a banner that will be placed in the Student Activity Center.