Dayton Elementary School Boasts Kentucky’s First Unified Young Athletes

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Dayton Elementary School Boasts Kentucky’s First Unified Young Athletes

Lincoln Elementary in Dayton, Ky., Took Its First-of-its-Kind Program
on the Road

Lincoln Elementary Young Athletes
The Lincoln Elementary Unified Young Athletes Program – the first of its kind in Kentucky – took its first field trip to Super Bowl of Bellewood in January.

Doing something unprecedented is hard at a place that’s been around as long as the Super Bowl Bellewood in Newport. But something unprecedented took place there on Tuesday, Jan. 30. That was the day of the first field trip for the Unified Young Athletes group from Lincoln Elementary in Dayton, Ky., a river town two towns east of Newport in Campbell County. Lincoln’s is the first Unified Champion Schools Young Athletes Program in Kentucky.

The group was directed by first-year Lincoln Elementary physical education teacher Angela Hedenberg. And while she’s new to Lincoln Elementary, it’s not her first association with Special Olympics.

“During my previous background in Pendleton County, where I taught for 20 years, I had adapted PE and worked with various physical therapists there,” Hedenberg explained. “I had been involved with Special Olympics my years prior. This is my first year at Lincoln Elementary and (principal) Ms. (Heather) Dragan approached me about the Unified Olympics program.”

The program didn’t begin immediately. Hedenberg took some time at her new school to get a feel for how the things might work.

“In December I began identifying students in grades 2 through 4 who might excel in the Unified program,” Hedenberg said. “I e-mailed the special education specialists for other student referrals. Second, I began to observe students in PE class who helped and were a ‘buddy’ to any special needs students in my class. I also reached out to classroom teachers and discussed the ‘buddy’ system to get referrals.”

The program centered around bowling but there were other important activities as well.

“We did some team building exercises together that increased our bonding and morale,” Hedenberg said. “I did this as a warm up before any bowling activities.”

The team building worked, according to what Hedenberg saw during the bowling activities.

“There was some tears of frustration when we first, began,” she said, “but everyone would pick each other up and provide encouragement.”

As for student gains, early returns are also encouraging Hedenberg says.

“Each student has been different. I saw an increase in confidence in one student. Another student demonstrated more emotional control in dealing with frustration if he was having trouble with a particular skill. Bowling skills and love of the sport increased. The student ‘buddies’ were always patient, kind and helpful to everyone just like they had been in PE.”

Our thanks to Super Bowl of Bellewood for donating all the in-school materials they have used at Lincoln Elementary, which include bowling lane carpets, pins and balls, and for welcoming the group to their facility.

For information about how your school can add a Unified Young Athletes Program, contact Justin Harville, Director of Volunteer and Program Services, at 502-695-8222 or [email protected].

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