PORTSMOUTH — Basketball players, fellow athletes, classmates and teachers all unified Wednesday afternoon with a common purpose: to rid the community of an ugly word.
“This was for our ‘Spread the Word to End the Word’ campaign, which is all about ending the use of the ‘R’ word,” said Alex Simeone, coach of the Portsmouth Middle School unified basketball team, which played Middletown’s J.H. Gaudet Middle School as part of the campaign that went on all week.
“We had the whole school involved. Every advisory in our school made posters for the gym and the school,” said Mr. Simeone, who credited the Student Council for hanging up all the posters and handing out popcorn, bracelets and donated cowbells that were used to make noise at the game
“All the sports teams at the school came to the game today — baseball, softball and track,” he said.
In unified sports, students with intellectual disabilities (called the athletes) and those without (the helpers) play together on the same team.
“I try not to let any of helpers shoot the ball,” said the coach. “I try to let all the points come from the athletes, because I just think it makes for a better game that way.”
Although the crowd enthusiastically rooted on all the players from both teams, one athlete in particular got an extra dose of love. Every time Patrick Kiely was put into the game or got the ball, the gym would erupt into cheers of “Patrick! Patrick!”
“He’s just a fan favorite,” said Mr. Simeone. “He’s the most lovable kid.”
The other players on the team are Bia Butcher, Henry Banks, Zachary Pierce, Jack Ross, Kyle Beaudreau, Abby Varrica, Meg Ripa, Jillian Lunney, Ally Armin, Owen Ross and Andrew Goss.