Champions Together creates unforgettable relationships


Maya Wilkins

During the 2019 CHS Lip Dub, Desiree Swert and AJ Macon get ready for the camera. Both students play flag football, basketball and track.

I wish everyone could experience Bradly’s sassiness. Have a special handshake with Corbin. Watch Danielle’s eyes light up as she runs. Listen to Brent give a pre-game speech. Get a hug from Dani.

Most importantly, I wish everyone could experience the joy that comes from playing unified.

I joined Champions Together halfway through my junior year, looking for an activity to get involved in second semester, but I never expected how much it would change my life.

Gavin was the first athlete from the program I met, through an interview I had with him for a story, my first story and ultimately, my favorite one. He immediately made an impact on me, his personality struck me as something special, he struck me as something special. He was constantly positive and fun-loving, by speaking to him and his mom, I could easily see just how much of an impact he had on everyone around him.

Not too long after I had met Gavin, I met AJ, another athlete in the program. He would walk one of my friends to class every day and I would accompany them. AJ made me laugh harder than I had imagined, and he was always so caring, always asking about my day and wanting to talk to me about it.

These are the people who got me involved in the program, these are the kids who started the domino effect of changing my life.

When I had first joined, I felt a little discouraged. I hadn’t felt a special connection with any of the kids, I hadn’t felt like their friend, I had felt like I was just there, on the team competing, but separate from helping the kids.

That feeling didn’t last long. I have never met people as excited and social as the athletes for the program. Pretty soon, Desiree was running up to me in the commons and telling me about her day, which she still does today. I heard about everything in her life from her classes to what music she was listening to to her boy drama. We never ran out of things to talk about.

Corbin would see me and talk to me about basketball or football or whatever sport was going on. We always found something to talk about. We would see each other in the halls and we would fist bump or give each other a high five.

Then I met Bradly, arguably the athlete who has made the biggest impact on my life. I don’t even remember how we became close, but it never really mattered. Pretty soon, we would start practicing together, coming up with a strategy for how he could best run a 100 and then ask about each others’ days, and finally, end the day having a contest about who’s “sassier.”

I would look forward to Tuesdays and Thursdays just because I could go to practice, but what was odd was I never looked forward to competing. I looked forward to helping the athletes and hearing about their days, I didn’t care about how fast I ran or where we placed as a team so long as the kids were happy.

Champions Together taught me a lot about life. It taught me that life is so much bigger than myself, it taught me how to care more than before and most importantly, it taught me the power behind inclusion.

Bradly Klotz and I before basketball practice one day. Bradly loves to take pictures with people.

For so long, people with special needs have essentially been ostracized because of their differences, but that’s what makes Champions Together so powerful. When you’re there, no one cares if you’re a general or special education student, everyone is friends with everyone; everyone is a family.

As I look back on my time at Carroll High School, I can smile for many reasons. But what I smile about the most is this program and these kids. They taught me more about life and love than they will ever know, and for that I am eternally grateful.

That is why I play Unified. That is why I wish everyone could play Unified.