courtesy of Daniel Toll
Daniel Toll’s Special Addition at Gables
Junior Daniel Toll has created a new club at Gables which allows students with intellectual disabilities to participate in a wide variety of sports.
The Special Olympics organization was founded in 1968 in the hopes of creating a safe environment where every single person is accepted, regardless of any abilities or disabilities. Participating in sports can be an excellent way for people with disabilities to step out of their comfort zone and discover new skills. The Special Olympic aims to change the lives of all the 200 million people with intellectual disabilities around the globe. Currently, this organization has a program in place that allows schools to become Unified Champion Schools. Through a series of sport-related training sessions and competitions, students are breaking down the barriers that have kept people apart.
Due to the vast majority of Miami-Dade County Schools that have a Unified Champion program, junior Daniel Toll took it upon himself to introduce it to the school. During his summer break, Toll attended a summer camp offered by the Special Olympics organization, where he had an eye-opening experience.
“When I started the summer camp program, I didn’t go into it thinking I would have the experience that I did. I expected it to be a little bit of a burden but honestly, the weekends were the most boring part, I had so much fun getting to know [the Special Olympic athletes] and going on field trips,” Toll said.
Toll’s goal with this club is to bring joy, confidence and competitiveness to student athletes. Instead of focusing on what makes people different, this club focuses on students’ talents and abilities and applaud them for what they can do while helping them improve in what they cannot.
When Toll found out that Gables was one of the few schools that didn’t have this program in place, he saw it as an opportunity to take it upon himself and make sure this club would be established.
Many students that have disabilities cannot compete at the level that high school sports require, so this club is meant to serve as a gateway for these kids to make new friends while staying active.
Initially, this club began as an additional segment of Best Buddies— a club focused on creating one-to-one friendships with students that have intellectual and developmental disabilities— but after receiving permission from the principal, The Unified Champion Schools club now has its own board, supervisor and separate meeting dates.
The club held their first meeting the week of Sept. 17, where a total of 25 students attended. Overall, Toll was satisfied with the outcome of his first meeting but hopes that numbers will rise in the upcoming meeting.
Toll encourages the student body at Gables to join this club because it not only benefits members but provides joy to others. Special Olympics has the potential to serve as a reminder to students with disabilities that they have the same opportunities as other students if they work hard for them.