[From August 2021 to May 2022, The Decade of Inclusion interview series will capture the past, present and future of the partnership between Division III and Special Olympics. This is the fourth article in the 10-part series. Stay tuned to hear how the lives of student-athletes and Special Olympics athletes have been impacted over time, what is happening currently, and what’s still to come.]
“Do the ordinary things at an extraordinary level.” This favorite quote shared by Ellie Bauer, Bates College field hockey student-athlete, sums up the relationship between the Bates Special Olympics Club and the Navigators, a local team of Special Olympics Maine athletes.
Bates Special Olympics Club was one of 12 Division III institutions and over 40 colleges across the country to participate in the Special Olympics Virtual College Championship Week presented by Special Olympics and ESPN this past spring. After a week featuring virtual games, workouts, a dance party and other activities, Bates Special Olympics Club’s overall points won them 2nd place. Bridget Thompson, Bates field hockey student-athlete and Special Olympics Club president, said, “I am so incredibly proud of how we ended up finishing.” She noted they had the entire Bates community—including the college’s president and athletics director—supporting the Special Olympics Club’s efforts. She also highlighted that a silver lining of COVID and the week being virtual was she was still able to participate while studying abroad in Ireland.
Bauer, Thompson and Ashley Stasulis, a Navigator and Bates Special Olympics Club Unified teammate, all noted how Bates student-athletes and the Navigators have become more than just teammates … they are a family. Stasulis described the relationship as “phenomenal” and “very supportive.” Thompson noted that, even while abroad, she texted regularly with her Navigator teammates due to the “incredible friendships” they have built. Bauer said the relationship between Bates Special Olympics Club members and the Navigators has grown over the years due to having a very active club, which includes weekly practices, half-time activities, and virtual events like creating videos of trick shots.
Bauer, Stasulis and Thompson as well as the rest of the Bates Special Olympics Club recently turned their extraordinary efforts towards the Special Olympics North America Move Challenge. They tackled the challenge as a team, trying to obtain as many minutes of movement as they could between September 13 and November 7, 2021. Bauer noted that the challenge allowed her to engage not only her Bates and Navigator teammates, but also her friends and family, in a unified effort.
While they’ve had and continue to have success in both in-person and virtual challenges, the relationship between Bates Special Olympics Club and the Navigators means so much more. When asked what inclusion means to them, some of the words Bauer, Stasulis and Thompson highlighted included community, teamwork, together, good times and unity … all of which are extraordinary.