Fans in the Stands becomes Unified


Alistair Clodi, Social Media Manager

On Saturday, February 4, 2023, MV’s Unified Basketball team took on the Edwardsville Tigers in Fans in the Stands at Changnon Gym.

“Fans in the Stands is a Special Olympics home basketball game. The game’s purpose is to have as many fans as possible attend the game and support our team. Since we have a captive audience, we share information about the “R-Word Campaign” and offer everyone an opportunity to sign a banner taking the pledge against the harmful use of the R-Word,” stated Coach Megan Clodi.

This year’s Fans in the Stands was non-traditional and varied differently than in past years.

“This year’s event was different in two ways. One was that it was our first time featuring the Unified Basketball Team. In the past, only our Traditional Basketball Team competed, comprising only Special Olympics Athletes,” voiced Coach Clodi.

“We have struggled to secure Unified Peer Partners to play on the team. We weren’t sure until the very last minute if we would be able to play a unified game on February 4. That is why this year’s event was much more low-key,” accounted Coach Clodi.

“We hope to be back stronger than ever next year and hope to have all the student groups fully involved, just like in the past. It was always a spectacular event filled with all the excitement and spirit of a weekend night in Changnon,” added Coach Clodi.

A peer partner is an athlete that does not have a mental disability and plays alongside Special Olympics athletes.

“I’ve played many sports growing up; I’ve played basketball, wrestled, and ran cross country, but Unified Basketball has been like no other sport. I had so much fun playing alongside the athletes,” revealed Madison Teriet, ’26.

Mount Vernon’s Unified Basketball Team has become a family affair, including Athlete Makai Teriet, ’24, Peer-Partner, Madison Teriet, ’26; Coach Megan Clodi, and Peer-Partner, Alistair Clodi, ’26.

“In grade school, my sister and I ran on the same Cross Country team, so it was amazing to play on the same team with my sister,” commented Makai Teriet, ’24.

Despite the setbacks and what made this game different, our Unified Rams still overpowered the Edwardsville Tigers, leading the Rams to a triumph.

“It felt awesome when everyone cheered for us after we won,” shared Brayden Gunter, ’24.

Anyone can become a Unified Peer Partner, and it is very straightforward.

“Students without disabilities can get involved as Unified Peer Partners in various ways. First, there is a Unified PE class so that you can be a peer partner daily! Unified PE Applications are available in the Student Services Office,” said Coach Clodi.

“We also have several extracurricular Unified Sports, including Unified Soccer, Unified Basketball, Unified Bass Fishing, and Unified eSports. Students can sign up in the Special Education Office to register as a Unified Peer Partner for extracurricular activities. They will need to become registered Class A volunteers with Special Olympics Illinois by completing the online registration and two online training sessions,” told Coach Clodi.

“There are other leadership opportunities for Unified Peer Partners, such as serving on the statewide Youth Activation Committee, participating in the Youth Activation Summit, and signing up for Youth Leadership Experiences at state competition events,” disclosed Coach Clodi.

As a serving member of Special Olympics Illinois’ Youth Activations Committee, being a part of MV’s Unified Basketball Team, and playing alongside other athletes and peer partners has been a fun experience, and I have learned so much. Other students should consider becoming a Special Olympics Unified Peer Partner or participating in any Special Olympics events.

“Unified Basketball has been an amazing opportunity, and I am so thankful for my team, coaches, and everyone who came to cheer us on. Finally, I would like to say, let’s go Rams!” noted Makai Teriet.