The Guilford starters will have some company when they take the field during pre-game introductions on Friday afternoon.
The 11 starters will be joined by 11 members of the Unified Sports program when the starters’ names are called prior to the 3:45 p.m. game against Foran, scheduled to be played at Bittner Field. The 11 members from Unified Sports will be accompanied by 11 of their partners.
“We recognize that integration made a great difference in our team this season compared to previous years,” Guilford co-captain Gabriela Garcia-Perez said. “We know that this concept is crucial in every aspect in life but even more essential for the Unified Sports Athletes.”
Garcia-Perez and fellow co-captain Madison Gambardella aid they began to organize this event during the summer with help from Jaye Carson, a Unified Sports coordinator. The Foran game was chosen “because of the special connection that Guilford has through Unified Sports with Foran,” Garcia-Perez said.
There are over 100 members of Unified Sports at Guilford High and between 40-50 at each of the two middle schools in town.
Garcia-Perez noted the success of the 8-1-1 Indians is due in part of the synergy between each of her teammates. Garcia-Perez said each player will have the word inclusion written on their arms. Everyone — players, Unified athletes and their partners — will wear custom-designed shirts with the same word on them.
This hits close to home for Garcia-Perez. Her younger brother Segio is a helper for Unified Sports at one of the middle schools. And she started her own program called Community Integration Mentoring Program (CIMP), which is similar to Unified Sports in that its goal is to integrate communities and empower children who have disadvantages to become successful in today’s society.
“Helping others to have the same opportunities and tools to be successful in life is a very special topic to me and I would like to advocate for it every time I have an opportunity,” Garcia-Perez said.