Fundraising efforts for uniforms are underway for the Troy Howard Middle School unified basketball team, now in its second year of play, as the start of the season approaches.
During its inaugural season in 2019, the young Lions had to borrow uniforms to play its slate of unified basketball games.
Now, the Lions are seeking to raise $2,500 to purchase uniforms of its own.
The team has 21 players on its roster representing Troy Howard and Northport’s Edna Drinkwater School, with nine of those being partner players.
The school intends on purchasing 22 reversible uniforms for the program that will allow the team to simply turn the uniform inside-out for its home and away contests. These uniforms will remain with the program for future seasons until they need to be replaced.
Additionally, the players will receive warm up jerseys with their names on the back that they will keep at the end of the season — a tradition at Troy Howard for its non-unified basketball teams.
Unified basketball has grown in popularity across the state at the high school level, and is beginning to grow at the middle school level. Locally, there are varsity unified basketball teams at Belfast, Oceanside, Camden Hills, Medomak Valley and Mount View.
The sport partners students with developmental disabilities (Unified Student Athlete) with students without developmental disabilities (Unified Student Partners) to train, compete, and represent their school, a press release about the sport noted in 2015. Unified Sports, the release continued, impacts all kinds of students and helps promote physical activity, teamwork, sportsmanship, and social inclusion.
“Unified basketball is such a wonderful program and has a great impact on all the players and fans,” said Troy Howard assistant principal and athletic director Alta Seekins.
During its inaugural season last year, many partner players were mostly unaware of what they were signing up for when deciding to join the unified basketball team, but they were willing to participate and help out, Seekins noted.
“I’m so pleased that not only did all of the partners still at THMS enthusiastically rejoin this year, but several of the partners that moved on to the high school are playing on the BAHS unified team,” said Seekins. “The relationships built between the players has carried on throughout the year and the special olympians feel more a part of the whole school community and have established positive peer relationships. It’s common to see ‘high fives’ and greetings as students move throughout the school.”
The middle school unified basketball season will include four contests, as well as an exhibition contest.
The season will begin with an exhibition contest against the unified basketball team from Belfast Area High School on Thursday, Feb. 27 at THMS at 3:30 p.m.
The exhibition contest will serve as a fundraiser, with donations being accepted at the door, for the Susan Black Scholarship Fund.
The late Susan Black, a long time Belfast educator and supporter of unified athletics and the Special Olympics, will be honored at the game. All money raised through concessions and donations will go to the fund.
In non-exhibition play, Troy Howard will open the regular season Wednesday, March 11 at home against Ellsworth at 4 p.m. for its lone home game.
The remainder of the season will see the Lions hit the road to challenge Nokomis (March 17), Brewer (March 26) and Ellsworth (April 6).