While this is only the second year the Meijer State Games of Michigan will be hosting a Unified Golf tournament, Nick Caudle's relationship with the West Michigan Sports Commission goes way back. He was selected as the organization's first intern and was involved in planning the inaugural Summer Games. Now, as the Manager of Sports and Training for Special Olympics Michigan, he hopes to continue to make a difference in the community through the organization's Unified Sports program.
"Unified Sports combines athletes both with and without intellectualdisabilities playing together on teams. In the case of Unified Golf, the teams are made up of one athlete with intellectual disabilities and one unified partner without intellectual disabilities playing alternate shots," explained Caudle. "I have been working for Special Olympics Michigan for three years and have seen our Unified Sports Program become a huge part of our organization."
With an inside perspective to how the Meijer State Games of Michigan work, Caudle was very interested in the opportunity of hosting an event for his athletes at the Cedar Chase Golf Club. The organization's participation through the event, he believes, has given Special Olympics Michigan athletes another opportunity to interact with other athletes in Michigan to show off their strengths on a larger platform.
"Having our Unified Golf pairs involved with the Meijer State Games of Michiganis a great thing for the organization and in particular, our athletes," said Caudle. "I think having our athletes involved shows the inclusive nature of these games and shows they truly are statewide games in which all competitors are welcome."
But Caudle is not just in it for the glory of hole-in-ones. His favorite part is being able to interact and work with new athletes through Special Olympics Michigan.
"The most rewarding part of my job is getting to know our athletes, making friends with them, and watching them achieve their goals," Caudle said. "The joy they feel and show as they compete is one of the greatest things to experience. It definitely makes this job fun and keeps us continually looking forward to the next event."
The Unified Golf event will be held at Cedar Chase Golf Club on June 25th, 2016.Caudle hopes every event will continue to raise more awareness and draw more participants to the Unified Sports Program. There are over 23,000 athletes that compete in Special Olympic Michigan events all over the state, leaving plenty of opportunities for anyone to get involved.
"As Unified Sports continues to become more popular, we are always looking for additional Unified Partners to join our program, so we encourage anyone who is interested to sign up and experience the joy of Unified Sports," said Caudle. "This sport and competition showcase our mission of making a more inclusive and accepting world while allowing athletes a chance to show their abilities in ways many thought was impossible a few short years ago."
The Meijer State Games of Michigan is a multi-sport, Olympic-style event(s) that welcome athletes regardless of age or ability level. The Games embody the values of participation, sportsmanship and healthy living.