The Cherry Creek High School Unified Basketball team took the Greenwood Village Police Department to court on March 15th. Not a court of law, but a basketball court.
It was March madness with a twist as the CCHS unified team, made up of students with special needs and their typically developing peers, took on a team of Greenwood Village police officers. While the students played in shorts and jerseys, the cops played in full uniform, including bullet-proof vests and utility belts.
“We figured we should be able to run and maneuver with our uniforms because that’s how we train,” said Officer Rodney Valenzuela, a school resource officer. “We’re hoping we’ve got the edge but it’s been a very long time since most of us have been involved in basketball,” he admitted. “It’s going to be a challenge.”
The teams faced off in a friendly game of hoops as part of the school’s week-long “Spread the word to end the word” campaign, an effort to end the hurtful and dehumanizing use of the word “retarded.”
“We’ve handed out shirts that say ‘Pledge to show respect,’” said senior and unified team member Lilly Bernardis, whose brother has Down syndrome. “It’s really cool to show people that this word is not okay to say.”
The play on the court was intense, but good-natured. In the end, Creek won by a score of 52 to 12. Officer Valenzuela said it was a great game, even though the GVPD lost.
“We thought it was an outstanding idea and way for us to connect the police department with unified sports and to be able to show the community that everyone is included,” he said.