Jordan Education Foundation, Chick-fil-A franchises, others pledge support to schools’ unified programsNov 03, 2021 05:25PM ● By Julie Slama
At the unified soccer state championships, Jordan Education Foundation President Dawn Ramsey announced that Jordan Education Foundation is pledging $20,000 to aid Unified Sports in 10 of its schools. (Photo courtesy of Dawn Ramsey)
By Julie Slama | [email protected]
Not only was it the state unified soccer semi-finals and finals where teams from Bingham High and Riverton High took to the field and scored goals, but many of Jordan School District’s schools scored with the announcement made at a press conference at Rio Tinto stadium.
Jordan Education Foundation pledged $20,000 to aid Unified Sports in 10 of its schools, supporting Utah first lady Abby Cox’s statewide “Show Up” initiative to introduce the Unified Sports program to more schools – from 40 across the state to 100 by the 2022-23 school year — and expand it from soccer, basketball and track to more sports.
Jordan Education Foundation President Dawn Ramsey made the announcement.
“We are really excited about this,” she said. “Unified Sports gives opportunities to students who may not have those same opportunities to be on a team in another way. We are very excited to be able to provide this partnership with Special Olympics Utah to provide an opportunity for these kids to be included. It helps to foster empathy, where each of these athletes have a buddy who plays with them. This is just such a great opportunity to experience joy, to learn to play together, to include everyone in opportunities and to meet the needs of these students.”
Unified Sports, like the state soccer tournament where Bingham won its division and Riverton scooped up fourth and fifth places with its two teams, is a UHSAA-sanctioned sport program supported by Special Olympics Utah that joins high school-age students with and without intellectual disabilities together, playing side-by-side on the same sports teams. Through playing Unified Sports, students build friendships as well as improve sports skills, said Unified Champion Schools manager Courtnie Worthen, who hopes all students are supported inclusively in their community to succeed and belong.
South Jordan and Mountain View Village (Riverton) Chick-fil-A franchise owners Becky and Scott Pickle, the Renae and Joe Ingles family and the Salt Lake Bees also pledged their support, totaling 25 additional teams.
“I just love that this creates opportunities for kids to connect; it creates opportunities to learn empathy and compassion; to learn teamwork; to learn how to handle disappointment and situations of so many social and emotional skills,” said Becky Pickle, adding that her franchises also have provided several thousandmeals for Special Olympics athletes, coaches and volunteers. “We really want to support this initiative, this idea for them to be the first district to lead out on this and grow it in their district. I really wanted to support that and match what they were doing so they can take it further.”
Ramsey, who has been on the Jordan Education Foundation for nine years, learned about the program from Worthen and the first lady and brought it to the attention of the Foundation. Supporting Unified Sports was a unanimous decision at the foundation’s Sept. 16 annual meeting.
Ramsey, who also serves as South Jordan mayor, said that the school district’s goal is “Every Child, Every Day” and the foundation’s is to engage the community to provide support to help build success in Jordan District.
“This is a perfect match and it’s a way we can help,” she said. “We’ve chosen to step up and raise the funds to be able to provide this program to the schools in every community in Jordan School District. This will strengthen every community in the district.”
Those schools will include all six high schools as well as four middle schools: South Jordan, Mountain Creek, Joel P. Jensen and South Hills.
The Pickles pledged $20,000, which should help an additional 10 schools that have yet to be determined.
This was the first time Jordan School District Superintendent Anthony Godfrey has attended a Unified Sports tournament.
“It’s really exciting to be a part of this initiative right from the start, and to have so many schools out of the chute; I have no doubt that this program will continue to spread,” Godfrey said. “Thanks to the enthusiasm of our families and employees. We’re overwhelmed at the show of generosity for our students, both from the foundation and Chick-fil-A. Chick-fil-A is always a great partner and the foundation is always looking for ways to help support student opportunities and this is the best kind of student opportunity. It allows students of all abilities to be part of activities at their schools.”
Miller, who also serves on the foundation, said it was her first time watching Unified Sports as well.
“I love that we have athletes of all abilities working together,” she said. “The feeling of empathy and inclusion that is created is really neat. It’s a great concept and a neat experience to witness. I was all choked up watching; it’s just a special thing.”