Rolling into the New Year with Unified Bocce

Unified+Bocce+members+come+together+after+their+win+on+Wednesday.

Julia Shearer

Unified Bocce members come together after their win on Wednesday.

What looks like an after school activity to some, just so happens to be a memory that others will carry with them through life as a reminder of what their high school did for them. For the members of Unified Bocce at North Penn high school, this experience proves time and time again to be exactly that.

For the last couple of weeks, the unified bocce team has been meeting and practicing after school to prepare for their matches. More importantly, the North Penn students volunteering to work with the athletes are creating bonds and memories to make everyone’s time with this team well worth it.

“Our goal here is for kids with disabilities and those without to come together and, number one, to have fun and make friends, and number two, we’re actually quite competitive and we want to win,” Special Olympics advisor, Mrs. Susan Ahart explains.

Unified bocce athlete Jimmy Shea has directly seen the social and competitive aspects of this during his time on the team and has gained some new friends and memorable experiences along the way.

“I did it to have fun. I made new friends and we like to talk,” Shea said. “We win because of teamwork. It makes me feel happy when we win.”

As for the volunteer partners, they have seen some of the same effects while participating on the bocce team. Special Olympics volunteers Jocelyn Franek, Emma Hersh and Mia Sparango have noticed firsthand how a variety of people are able to connect through bocce.

“I’ve definitely made a lot of new friends since last year, having new kids come up from middle school, so it’s great to meet everyone new,” Franek explained.

“The kids get to make new friends, and I think we all get to make new friends too,” Hersh said.

“It’s people who we normally wouldn’t get a chance to be friends with,” Sparango added.

The Special Olympics experience does not only benefit the unified athletes. Having a common activity for students with disabilities and those without to bond over is an important bonding opportunity for both parties.

“I’ve always done Special Olympics ever since middle school and when I had the opportunity to do the bocce team I decided to join,” Franek explained. “It’s a time for me to kind of relax at the end of the day and talk to friends and meet new people.”

While it is still fun to exercise the competitive aspect of the sport, there is a deeper meaning for putting all of this together. The reflection back on North Penn really highlights how much the district has done for the people involved in the special olympics program.

I think unified sports have really enhanced the connections that students have been able to make with each other. Students are able to meet others that they would not have met if it weren’t for unified sports, so it has definitely brought our community together.”

— Susan Ahart

“I think unified sports have really enhanced the connections that students have been able to make with each other,” Ahart reflects. “Students are able to meet others that they would not have met if it weren’t for unified sports, so it has definitely brought our community together.”

This was the first meet of the bocce season, and certainly won’t be the last for years to come. The North Penn Special Ed community hopes to continue this tradition and build on top of the legacy that they have worked so hard to grow. For now, North Penn’s Special Olympics program is striving everyday to make a difference in the lives of the unified community.