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High School East's Unified squad has been refining their kickball skills throughout the 2022-2023 school year, and they'll put those skills to the test against Wall in a game tomorrow. That matchup is thanks to Unified Sports, which the district joined earlier this year. Story below.

kickball for Unified Sports

Wall, HSE Kickball Game May 16

May 15, 2023-- At High School East, games of flag football, soccer, basketball, and kickball have taken place throughout the school year. This is business as usual, of course, except that these particular games have been fully inclusive, involving students receiving special services and general population students, managed and facilitated by student and staff mentors, with paraprofessionals and nurses on site. They’ve been among the most popular activities the school has hosted all year.

And, more to the point, these games have been under the umbrella of Unified Sports, an initiative of the Special Olympics.

The district is, officially, a participant of Unified Sports, and received a $9k grant from Special Olympics New Jersey (SONJ) to implement the program this year at East. Additional grants of $9k for both High School North and Intermediate South to host the program will follow next year. All of this is thanks primarily to Christian Kane, founder of the RWJBarnabas Toms River Field of Dreams, the inclusive complex which has served as the site for many Unified Sports games this year.

“This has been, is, and will continue to be an opportunity for children and students of all abilities to compete–to genuinely participate in athletics in ways that general population students do, through sanctioned events and against their peers and other schools,” said Kane. 


A High School North teacher full time, Kane is also the father of Gavin, who experienced a traumatic brain injury at a young age and who inspired his father to create the Field of Dreams, which debuted in 2022 after years of relentless work and fundraising. Aligning the district with Unified Sports was the next step in Kane’s vision for an inclusive utopia, particularly when it comes to play.

“Team sports bring people together,” reads the Special Olympics’ website. “Special Olympics Unified Sports® teams do that, too and much more. About 1.4 million people worldwide take part in Unified Sports, breaking down stereotypes about people with intellectual disabilities in a really fun way.”

Count Toms River Regional Schools students among those 1.4 million. And this latest venture in genuine inclusivity through team sports has been, appropriately, a team effort.

High School East teacher and coach Danielle Foran has played a critical role, hosting Unified Sports practices every Friday since March. She is also personally training HSE’s squad for its kickball game May 16, as well as another matchup versus Brick May 30. The school’s Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) Colleen O’Donnell has partnered with Dr. Alex Stribing from Kean University to run a sports training program at the complex since March 23 that ran through April.

“This has been an all-hands-on-deck initiative,” said Superintendent Mike Citta, “from our administrative support, to Christian’s work obviously, to the many meetings among many dedicated teachers and coaches, to community partnerships and parental support. And it’s all in the interest of making sure every student, of every ability, has the same opportunity to compete.

“That’s a truly beautiful thing.” 

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