Special Olympics South Dakota hopes to bring together athletes with and without intellectual disabilities to train and compete on the same team with the construction of the first-ever Unify Center. Heartland recently made a $2,000 dontation towards the construction of the facility, which will be built in Sioux Falls, SD.
“Heartland’s donation is going to help make a positive impact for those with disabilities in South Dakota for years to come,” said Special Olympics SD President and CEO Darryl Nordquist.
According to Nordquist, the Unify Center will be key in growing Special Olympics across the state of South Dakota, including increasing the number of participants both with and without disabilities.
“The Unify Center will impact the athletes by providing more opportunity to improve confidence and self-esteem as well as greater independence through social integration and life skills training,” Nordquist said. “It will impact our community by building connections to Special Olympics families, increasing awareness of Special Olympics’ mission beyond sports, and increasing opportunities for family time, shared activities and community involvement. It also creates the potential for statewide tournaments and events that could bring revenue to the area. Building unity through the Unify Center is a way of making Special Olympics relevant to everyone.”
Specifically, the building will facilitate the organization’s programs focused on health, wellness and education, including the Healthy Athletes Initiative.
“The Healthy Athletes program promotes health education to everyone involved with Special Olympics, including participants, volunteers, families and staff, and provides free health screenings at our state events,” said Nordquist. “It focuses on seven disciplines, including Fit Feet, FUNFitness, Healthy Hearing, Health Promotion, Opening Eyes(r), Special Smiles(r) and MedFest.”
Nordquist hopes the Unify Center will one-day house the organization’s first MedFest, which will provide free physicals to participants. The center will also facilitate growth of Project Unify, the namesake of the facility.
“Unified sports brings together athletes with and without disabilities to be teamates, and educates those without about the importance of inclusion and acceptance for those with disabilities,” said Nordquist. “Project Unify focuses on education in our schools to help students become agents of change for those with intellectual disabilities. We were in 68 schools last year for the ‘Spread the Word to End the Word’ campaign, which discourages the use of the ‘R’ word.”
Artist’s rendering of the Unify Center, courtesy SOSD.
The Unify Center will be a 16,000 square-foot facility and will include athletic training areas, open space and a commons area. It will feature handicap-accessible locker rooms, showers and facilities as well as a kitchen and concessions area. The building will be multi-purpose, allowing for everything from training to social activities.
Special Olympics is founded on the belief that people with intellectual disabilities can, with proper instruction and encouragement, learn, enjoy and benefit from participation in individual and team sports. Special Olympics SD provides year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults from across the state with intellectual disabilities. The number of participants in South Dakota has grown from 1,400 to over 2,000 in the past four years and includes people ages eight to 82. For more information on the organization or the Unify Center, visit www.sosd.org.