ADRIAN, Mich.--Adrian College Athletics and the HOPE Community Center recently joined forces to hold a successful Special Olympics College soccer tournament that united Bulldogs and HOPE athletes.
A series of practices and clinics stretching for about a month culminated with a three-hour tournament-style event that was held during the last week of January at the Merillat Sport & Fitness Center field house.
The Adrian College men's soccer team and the on-campus PRIDE (Promoting Rights of Individuals with Disabilities Everywhere) Club co-organized the event that included 12 Special Olympics athletes on each of four teams and representatives from several Adrian varsity sports programs.
"It was cool to see the interaction between the Special Olympics athletes and Bulldog teams. It's great to see the athletes have fun because we know it's important to the families and players. It's a great relationship for Adrian College with Special Olympics," stated men's soccer sophomore defender Sean Cain, who serves as the school representative for the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association Student-Athlete Advisory Committee as well as on the NCAA SAAC.
Cain also reflected about the experience on a personal level: "We got to know the Special Olympics athletes and they got to know us. At first, they were shy and then they warmed up to us, becoming more outgoing. I think parents appreciated that interaction because on one occasion a mother thanked me personally and noted that she's never seen her daughter be responsive like that with anyone. It was a terrific experience for all of us."
PRIDE provided snacks such as yogurt, fruit, granola bars, cookies and water, and all participants were given Adrian College Bulldogs grey T-shirts.
The HOPE Community Center of Adrian, located at 431 Baker Street, provides daily programming for adults with disabilities whose mission is to empower and promote their citizenship. For more information and how to get involved, please call (517) 265-2410.
PRIDE president Gabrielle Glodich, a senior for the Bulldogs' equestrian team, was pleased with the turnout and looks for bigger, better things next year.
"This event was sentimental to me because it helped achieve PRIDE's goals by bringing awareness of disabilities to campus. I was able to see solid relationships develop among the participants that led to an enjoyable experience for all. It is gratifying to see that we inspired others to make a difference," she said.
"We are thrilled with the excitement that our first-ever unified soccer tournament with a total of 70 athletes has generated, and are looking forward to growing our program by connecting with other local colleges in 2016."
(Editor's note: Photos were provided.)