September 05, 2012 | North America: District of Columbia

An Experience to Remember

By Rafael Pacheco

The team huddles up as we prepare for the second half.

When I entered the Basketball Gym at St. Coletta School in Washington D.C., I didn’t know what expect. I just knew that I was there to participate in a Special Olympics Unified Sports basketball league. What I experienced changed my thoughts about people with intellectual disabilities forever. The same feelings, emotions and teammate bonding that I had experienced in the past were present while playing with my Unified Sports team. There was a game where my team had clawed their way back from a 20 point deficit in the 2nd half. It was a tie game with 10 seconds left and the other team had possession. People in the stands were yelling at the top of their lungs. In a split second, we steal the ball, launch a pass down court to one of our athletes and he gets fouled. He steps up to line, misses the first shot and puts his head down. I walk over and tell him “You got this!” Then I hear SWISHHH, the crowd erupts and rushes the court. I will never forget that transformational moment!

About Rafael Pacheco: I live in Washington and work for Special Olympics.

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