FORT MILL — The smell of fresh-baked cookies wafts from room 107 as students finish bagging their baked goods to sell at lunch. The students, part of Club Unified at Nation Ford High School in Fort Mill, have been fundraising all school year for Special Olympics South Carolina.
The club’s most recent fundraiser brought students to Springmaid Beach in Myrtle Beach for the Polar Plunge. The event took place Jan. 12 and students participated in a variety of activities, including tug-of-war, relay races and dancing, and all groups donated to the Special Olympics.
“Club Unified is made up of students with and without disabilities, and we had seven members go to the Polar Plunge,” said Vicki Ball, one of the club’s advisors. “This is the first year, and the purpose of the club is to promote inclusion for students with and without disabilities to do things together outside of the classroom environment.”
To get to the plunge, Club Unified conducted several fundraisers, including a pancake breakfast at Applebee’s and cookie sales at Nation Ford football games.
“They raised $450 for Special Olympics,” Ball said. “And the students won a costume contest; they were Best Costumes and Most Enthused.”
Students without disabilities saw the event as a way to celebrate the friendships created through groups like Club Unified.
“My favorite part was seeing all those hundreds of people gathered for the same reason,” said Hannah Wells, a sophomore at Nation Ford High School.
Students with disabilities enjoyed participating in their favorite activities and making friends with people who shared their experiences and interests.
“I put my toes in and my ankles; it was funny,” said Kendall Little, a Nation Ford student with special needs. “I played tug-of-war and danced.”
“I went plunging at the beach and it was fun,” said David Newman, another student with special needs in Club Unified. “If they go next year I will go again.”
At the 2013 Special Olympics, Club Unified will be sending a cheerleading squad and basketball team to compete.
“The cheerleading team will compete in May at the state level Special Olympics, and the basketball team will compete in March at the Special Olympics,” Ball said.