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Inclusion Revolution: Building Friendships One Game at a Time

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On Wednesday, October 2, 2019, Joplin High School hosted the first annual Inclusion Revolution. More than 200 children and adults with intellectual disabilities from Joplin, Lamar, and Stockton joined approximately 250 Joplin High School students for a day of inclusive activities.

The Inclusion Revolution was a collaboration between Special Olympics Missouri and Joplin High School. Joplin High School committee members included Nick Reid and Julie McCain (Special Education/Peer Buddies), Matt Hiatt (Athletic Director), Jason Barchak (School Resource Officer/Joplin PD), Dr. Stephen Gilbreth (Principal) and SOMO SW Area Program Manager, Jana Fornelli. Joplin High School had expressed interest in hosting an event at their school. Our goal was not only to have a fun event for our Special Olympics athletes; we really wanted to promote inclusiveness. It seemed fitting for an inclusive event since they have a strong Peer Buddy program at their school. As we met to discuss the event, it fell into place to host the event in October during National Bullying Prevention Month and it was Joplin High School Homecoming Week.

The morning began with a Pep Rally with performances from Joplin High School Cheerleader and Dance Teams and messages from Dr. Gilbreth, Joplin HS Principal and Chief Stewart, Joplin Police Department. Special Olympics athletes and their buddies rotated stations playing games, dancing, popcorn, sno-cones, face painting and fun. Participants took the pledge to Choose to Include by signing the banner. Sports stations included flag football, bocce, kickball, softball home run derby, cheerleading/dance, and pickle ball. Bocce was a sport that many of our athletes have played but not many of the High School students had played so it was fun to see the athletes share their knowledge.

The event was such a huge success and the committee is already working on the event for next year. It was a great opportunity to see inclusion in action. Participants were able to find that they had more things in common, than they thought. This can go a long way to learning that difference is just a normal part of life.

At the end of the day, the Joplin Basketball coach wanted to know how to get more involved. The Joplin High School basketball teams are now planning a basketball clinic for Special Olympics athletes. It is amazing to realize how one event can affect so many people and further the inclusion revolution movement.