By Dominic Scianna
On April 19 at De La Salle Institute, a jam-packed gymnasium crowd cheered on Southside Occupational High School and De La Salle Institute for a boisterous Pep Rally in celebration of their 2023 Special Olympics Unified State Basketball Division II Championship. The two high schools partnered in mid-March at the University of Illinois, Urbana campus, to form a Unified team that bested the competition to win the title, marking the first ever Illinois state championship for both schools.
The Unified basketball rosters are made up of Special Olympics Illinois athletes and Unified partners, combining diverse learners and those without intellectual disabilities the opportunity to compete together in athletics.
Tom White served as head coach of the Southside-De La Salle squad. He is the former varsity head basketball coach and current Athletic Director at De La Salle Institute. White and his team were lauded for their outstanding season which saw 28 Unified teams (eight of which were Chicago Public Schools) participate along with 300 Special Olympics teams participating in basketball programming throughout the state.
The Special Olympics Unified initiative partners with the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) in helping to showcase inclusion, sportsmanship and ability.