Students developing NSU’s first Special Olympics team

Heidi Avery, Owasso freshman, volunteers at the 2018 Special Olympics state games in Stillwater. Special Olympics takes place annually during the winter and summer.

NSU students are working towards developing the first Special Olympics team and organization for NSU. The Special Olympics is an annual sports competition for those with physical or intellectual disabilities. These competitions can include a variety of different events including bocce ball, track and field, soccer and bowling. Heidi Avery, Owasso freshman, said she is looking forward to putting together a team and student organization for NSU.

“I have been involved with Special Olympics forever,” said Avery. “The whole goal is to have fun and to include others. Everybody deserves to have that fun college experience and joy that comes with hanging out with your friends. Not being seen as somebody who’s different from another person but who is the same, we’re all college students.”

Special Olympics takes place annually during the winter and summer. Avery plans to build a team that would start off competing in bocce ball. The team would practice throughout the semester before competing in area games, which generally take place around March or April.

“What a lot of people do not know about the Special Olympics is that they assume it’s just individuals with disabilities playing,” said Avery. “ It is actually played unified. So there is a partner with an intellectual disability or physical disability or whatever it may be alongside somebody that is considered neurotypical, or does not have a disability of some sort.”

Very few colleges in Oklahoma have Special Olympics teams. Students like Cavin Shambles, Vinita freshman, would like to help NSU build a program to help those with disabilities.

I grew up with my own sister having Spina Bifida with a school that never gave her the opportunity to enjoy all that this wonderful organization has to offer,” said Shambles. “I want to help expand this program to all individuals who wish to join as I know it can have such a positive and lasting affect among its members. I hope to connect with people and make Special Olympics a part of their lives.”

Many NSU students are involved with those with special needs through programs like the RiverHawk Scholars program and outside opportunities like Camp Barnabas. The RiverHawk Scholars program at NSU is a program that provides students with intellectual developmental disabilities an opportunity to experience college life and learn a variety of different skills is the first type of program in Oklahoma. 

Camp Barnabas is separate from NSU but many NSU students are involved with the program. Camp Barnabas is a camping experience for those with special needs or illnesses. Erin Danielson, Broken Arrow freshman, has volunteered for Camp Barnabas for five years and is looking forward to forming new relationships through the Special Olympics organization.

It is easy to see where my passions lie so I am beyond excited to be a part of this organization that is centered around inclusion and relationships,” said Danielson. “I am stepping into this organization with only one goal and that is to form relationships. I am a really big people person, and to me relationships are everything.”

The organization will have its first meeting towards the end of October or early November. Students that would like to get involved with the team or organization, or need more information can email Avery at

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