Unified Basketball: Students of the Month

IMG_0631 - CopyPost written by Mary Desmond

Groton-Dunstable is excited to add Unified Basketball this season.  Unified Sports is an initiative that combines equal numbers of Special Olympics athletes and athletes without intellectual disabilities (called partners).

Groton-Dunstable has joined 9 other teams in the pilot season.  Special Olympics of Massachusetts Basketball Leagues are based upon successful Special Olympics programs using the principles and programs of Project Unify, Unified Sports, and Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) rules and guidelines. Unified Sports leagues strive to help promote climates of dignity, respect, and inclusion in schools for students with and without intellectual disabilities.

IMG_0625Principal Michael Mastrullo had this to say about the program.  “We are really proud of several of the programs we have created at our school and I  count Unified Track and now Unified Basketball as two of the very best.  The coaches are just phenomenal.  Ann Valacer, Joyce Bennett, and Mary Desmond bring so much to the table each and every day working in the PAVE program.  They truly are all-star employees, and the school and the community are fortunate to have them and this wonderful program.  I am glad the community was able to witness a sliver of their efforts during the Unified Basketball season.  Lastly, I am so proud to see our athletes and partners work selflessly and compete together as a team should.  They are an example for us all.”

IMG_0619The first game was on November 10th against Fitchburg High School.  The final score was Fitchburg 33 Groton-Dunstable 28.  This score does not reflect how all our athletes and partners played. Every individual contributed offensively and defensively in the hard fought season comprised of 5 games.

Brian Waters felt the season was very exciting. “I was giving high fives to my team mates after I scored my first high school basket.” Ben McEvoy felt the season was fun and intense. “It was nice to see how many students in the stands to support us throughout the entire season.”

Coach Ann Valacer felt the entire season was a great success. “ I think I smiled the whole season and loved watching all our athletes and partners compete against another team.”

We fully intend to continue the Unified Basketball program next season and we are eager for the spring weather and the Unified Track program to commence in just a few months.

Walter Campbell

My name is Walter Campbell and I am in the PAVE program here at GDRSD for students ages 18-22. I am on the Unified track and basketball teams and participate in the Best Buddies program, too. I live in Groton with my family. My older sister, Annie, is finishing college next spring, and my younger brother, Malcolm, goes to the Parker Charter School. In PAVE, I’m learning about different kinds of jobs and right now I work at Bliss Bakery in Groton and am taking cake decorating classes at Frederick’s pastries. I’m also an artist and I create and draw designs for greeting cards that we sell to raise money for Best Buddies. I’m inspired by trains – I love to draw them and study how they work and where they go. I also care very much about my family and my friends and hope to stay close to them for many years to come.

Campbell, Walter

Peter McLaughlin

My name is Peter McLaughlin, and I am a senior here at Groton-Dunstable High School. I live in Groton with my parents and my brother, who is a junior at GD. I am currently serving as the Student Council president, and am a member of both the Unified Track and Unified Basketball teams. I am also president of the Best Buddies Chapter at GD, which I worked with Ms. Desmond, Ms. Bennett, and Ms. Valacer to start. I am currently going through the college-finding process, and am looking to major in finance.

McLaughlin, Peter
Lizzy Dean

My name is Lizzy Dean and I am currently a junior here at GD. I have lived in Groton for seven years with my sister Hannah who is now a freshman, my mom, and my dad. I really enjoyed the Unified Basketball season and can’t wait to play again next year. I am also planning on participating in Unified Track this spring.

Dean, Lizzy
Hannah Ray Dean

My name is Hannah Ray Dean.  I live in Groton with my mom Sherri, my dad Dave, my sister Lizzie and my dog Bella.  I like to listen to music and hang out with my friends. I loved playing on the unified basketball team.  It was so much fun and I really liked my teammates and coaches. I am looking forward to the unified track season.

Ray Dean, Hannah
Benjamin McEvoy

Hello! I am Benjamin McEvoy, currently a junior at GD. I am, and have always been a resident of Dunstable. I have an older brother named Brady and an older sister named Haley. I definitely plan on attending college after high school, hopefully a great business school such as The Wharton School at UPenn, Babson, or the University of California Berkeley. I am hoping to become something along the lines of what Warren Buffett does!

I am very lucky to be able to participate in baseball and hockey. This year though, I participated in Unified Basketball. This opened my eyes to how important it is to include everyone in anything. I always thought that I understood the true impact of giving back, but it became very real for me during this years Unified Basketball season. Seeing the smiles and looks of excitement on the players faces during the game is one of the most rewarding moments I have ever experienced. Overall, throughout my life, I have been very lucky to experience many different opportunities that have greatly impacted my life in a positive way. Going along with that, I am very excited for what my future holds.

McEvoy, Benjamin
Emma Grondolsky

My name is Emma Grondolsky and I’m a junior at Groton-Dunstable.  Before coming to Groton I lived in Kentucky, Texas, Virginia, North Carolina, and New Jersey. I live with my parents and my sister who is currently a senior.  I play softball, ski race, and play unified basketball.  I am also working on getting my pilot’s license, and participate in the Best Buddies program. I have only recently started looking at colleges but I hope to attend the University of Georgia.

Grobdolsky, Emma
Jessica Ready

Hi, My name is Jessica Ready. I am a senior at Groton-Dunstable Regional High School. I live in Dunstable with my dad. My interests are Japanese Anime, dancing, and hanging out with my friends. I am also interested in working with graphic designs. During my years in high school, I joined the Unified Track and Field, Unified Basketball and GD Best Buddies. My favorite sport is unified basketball because I enjoyed being with my team mates. I am excited to graduate from high school this year. My plans after graduation is to take some time off before going to college or work.

Ready, Jessica
Kyle Carbutt

My name is Kyle Carbutt, I am a senior here at GD. I participate in the Unified athletic programs as well as run cross country. During my down time I enjoy pig roasting, studying, and artisanal cheese sampling! I’m currently waiting on several college applications but I hope to attend the University of South Carolina. It’s been a privilege to work with everyone in the Unified program. If I could, I would recommend that everyone participate in unified sports as it has been a great experience and has been very fulfilling.

Carbutt, Kyle
Ben Fischi

Howdy! I’m Ben Fischi and currently a senior at GD. I like sports, fine dining, and studying the motion of the planets. I loved having the opportunity to participate in Unified Basketball for the first time in GD history. It was fun and we all learned a lot. Right now I am awaiting to hear from a variety of colleges, but I really hope to attend Tufts University. I just recently recovered from an injury that prohibited me from participating in Cross-Country and nearly ended my Basketball season as well. I was only able to play in two games, but I loved every minute of it. Of course that doesn’t mean I haven’t been cheering on my team all the way! I now set my eyes on skiing season and then Unified Track in the spring. I hope more people begin participating in Unified sports because they are very fun and very rewarding!

Fischi, Ben
Alex Phanord

My name is Alex Phanord and I am a freshmen at the High School. I like to make people laugh and do kind things for others. I play two sports basketball and golf. I enjoyed playing on the Unified Basketball team this past month. The kids on the team were so fun to be with.

My dad is a chef and makes the best food ever. My mom works at a Hotel in Boxborough. When I am older, I want to be a Scientist or golfer because I like Science and golf.

Phanord, Alex
Mike McAuliffe

I am a senior at GD. I participate in the unified sports and play golf. I am looking at Universities and hope to go somewhere local. I am looking to study finance in school. I really love participating in the Unified sports and am excited for this years Unified Track season. Unified Basketball was a great experience and I hope it remains in the GD athletics for many years. All of the athletes have learned so much and played so well, I hope they can keep working a keep getting better. Overall this has been a great experience for me and I am sad to see it end.

McAuliffe, Mike
Brian Waters

My name is Brian Waters. This is my last year at Groton-Dunstable. I live in Groton with my parents, my brother and my sister. I am a member of the Unified Basketball and Unified Track teams. I currently work part-time at Market Basket in Littleton. I enjoy working out at the gym and walking my dog.

Waters, Brian
Freddy Seizo Yuasa

Hi. Thank you for selecting me and my teammates on the Unified Basketball Team for Students of the Month. It means a lot to me and my family to receive this kind of recognition. I have known many of you since our days at Boutwell, Swallow Union, the middle school, and, for the last four years, the high school. My being able to grow up in this community with your support over the years has meant, well, just about everything to me!

I don’t know if many of you know this but I was born in Leominster and lived in Lunenburg until I was four before moving to Dunstable. I have a sister, Keiko, who is in 6th grade. I have been skiing since I was three. We got up to Sunday River on weekends during the winter. I like skiing in the woods when there is a ton of snow. I also like to go out to eat, ride my bike, go to the movies, and go bowling with my friends. I recently got a job working at the Groton School’s cafeteria, so I am looking forward to that. My goal is to finish school, work, continue to love life, and be happy. I am at my happiest when I am surrounded by people I have known over the years. I look forward to making new friends, too.

I want to thank my teacher, Mary Desmond and my para, Miss Bridget who have been with me since, gosh, forever. Please continue to say “hi” to me, tell me something funny, and ask how things are going when you see me at school and around town. These are the things that make my day!  If you need it, I give great big hugs.

Seizo Yuasa, Freddy