New VAHPERD partnership will encourage inclusion and fundraising in schools

Special Olympics Virginia (SOVA) and the Virginia Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance (VAHPERD) are excited to announce the start of an official partnership in January 2020.

The partnership will focus on increasing communications and resources provided to schools regarding Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools® (UCS) programs and collaborative fundraising opportunities. The collaborative fundraising model allows UCS schools to keep HALF of what they raise to help support their needs while the other half helps Special Olympics Virginia provide more opportunities for UCS programming across the state.

Unified Champion Schools® (UCS) offers a unique combination of activities that equip young people with tools and training to create sports, classroom and school climates of acceptance and inclusion. The program is designed to be woven into the fabric of the school, enhancing current efforts and providing rich opportunities that lead to meaningful change. The three components of a Unified Champion School are: Unified Sports, Inclusive Youth Leadership, and Whole-School Engagement.

As of 2019, more than 500 elementary, middle and high schools in the Commonwealth are offering Unified Champion Schools programs. The support for these programs costs Special Olympics Virginia nearly $750,000 annually.

“We are looking forward to this important, strategic partnership with VAPHERD. The opportunity to raise much needed funds will help schools strengthen their inclusive school climate and help SOVA continue to expand into every school in the Commonwealth. Together we can build a school, a community, a world more respectful in its conduct; more inclusive in its makeup; more unified in its fabric.” - Rick Jeffrey, President of Special Olympics Virginia

VAHPERD members, who are typically Health, Dance, and/or Physical Educators, will advocate for Unified Champion Schools programming and collaborative fundraising among their school administration, parents and students. This partnership demonstrates SOVA and VAHPERD’s shared vision that all students, regardless of ability level, have the opportunity to enhance their physical activity, contribute to the well-being of the school, and model inclusion for the community at large.

“VAHPERD is excited about working with SOVA and advocating for the Unified Champion Schools programming. This program fits into our vision of having a positive impact on society as a whole, by including students of all abilities together in an active environment while teaching acceptance and inclusion.” - Henry Castelvecchi, Executive Director of VAHPERD