SFU Participates in Virtual Special Olympics


Members of the University community virtually participated alongside 30 other teams across the nation in the first-ever Special Olympics Unified Sports Virtual College Championship Week over the past five days (April 12-16).

This week of friendly competitions consisted of 15 team-building challenges and events, all meant to help teach participants about the values of inclusion and acceptance.

To score the challenges and events, videos were posted to various social media accounts and judged by officials. At the end of the week, the winning group will be featured on ESPN as the Virtual College National Champion.

“Working with community engagement at SFU has opened my eyes to the generosity and commitment of our campus community to the service of others,” said Julie Horvath, SFU’s Director of the Office of Study Abroad. Horvath was one of the campus organizers of this event.

“The Virtual College Championship Week is no exception.”

Various Red Flash groups and organizations participated in different virtual events throughout the week, including:

  • Unified Gaming – Men’s Basketball
  • Virtual Hangout – Field Hockey
  • Karaoke/Dance Party – Nursing
  • Inclusion Kickoff Speech – Men’s Soccer
  • Arts and Crafts/Cooking – Physical Therapy
  • My Virtual Space – Women’s Basketball
  • What is Inclusion? – Cheerleading
  • Campus/Alumni “Like” Challenge – Occupational Therapy

Unified Sports is an all-inclusive sports program that partners Special Olympics athletes with participants from colleges and universities who are with and without intellectual disabilities.

These athletic partners then train together and compete in the event’s challenges and competitions as a team.

“The momentum behind Unified Sports is growing throughout the world,” said Nikki Imhoff, a Clinical Assistant Professor of Physical Therapy who was involved with the event.

“It is a fantastic opportunity for all people of all abilities to be together and enjoy the love and community of participating in sports.”

SFU’s involvement with this virtual competition began after the traditional Spring Sectional Special Olympics were canceled due to COVID-19.

For many years, SFU has served as a host site for these sectional competitions.

Hosting events this year on Zoom and other virtual platforms allowed participants to engage in activities while adhering to social-distancing guidelines.

Anyone interested in learning more about this program should follow @SONorthAmerica and @sfuserves_specialolympics on Twitter and Instagram.

“An assortment of student teams and leaders presented a variety of exciting, virtual events with the Special Olympians,” said Horvath.

“What an honor to be part of a wonderful program.”