Athletes from across the greater Rochester area celebrated the end of Section V's fourth season of Unified basketball with a series of final games at Gates-Chili High School.
The Unified program combines athletes with and without intellectual disabilities on one team.
"It's been the best experience I've ever seen," said Ronna Avitable whose son plays for the team from Greece.
The program is a collaboration between New York Public High Schools and Special Olympics New York as part of their Project Unify initiative.
"Today is a walking, talking testimony to the fact that 'I can't' shouldn't be in anyone's vocabulary. This is all about what they can do," said Nathan Johnson of Special Olympics New York.
Project Unify features three main components: youth leadership & advocacy, whole-school engagement and the Unified sports program.
"It takes those communities and makes them more accepting places for individuals with disabilities, individuals who might have different challenges. It really is about creating a better life for people," said Johnson.
And for Ronna's son Jacob, being on the team has helped him overcome some of his behavioral issues by gaining new social skills.
"Lots of behavior adjustments. He has just been a totally different kid," said Avitable.
Teams play five athletes at a time, three with disabilities and two buddies.
"It's a huge eye opener to how the imprint they can have when they participate in positive programming. It's an eye opener in terms of valuing everyday life and the experience that they've had at their high school," said Johnson.
From giving kids the chance to be on a team and wear a jersey for the first time, to promoting campaigns like 'The R-Word: Spread the Word to End the Word,' the program stays rooted in inclusion.
"How the buddies help them and how the parents all clap for each other's teams, there's no side to side. It's just a beautiful happy feeling to see that," said Avitable.