Cameron McMahon, a Valley Central High School junior, has played sports most of his life but never on a school team. Last May that changed when he joined the school district’s newly formed co-ed unified basketball team.

Unified sports is a registered program of the Special Olympics partnership with the New York State Public High School Athletic Association. Its goal is to provide inclusive sports experiences for all students regardless of ability. Teams include “athletes” (students with challenges) and “partners” (students without challenges). Together they play on the court, field, lane or track. All team members play in the game to the best of their abilities. Cameron is known for his “great outside shot,” said Victoria Voloshin, one of the team’s coaches. The players help by encouraging the athletes to make their best shot. There are always three athletes and two partners on the court during the entire game.

Voloshin said they all practice together to get ready for the games. For both partners and athletes, it’s an opportunity for them to meet other students, something they most likely wouldn’t have done before.

The season ended with a tournament hosted by the Monroe-Woodbury High School. Both athletes and players received medals, t-shirts, and a varsity letter. Throughout the season, students volunteer to be partners. Some are also varsity athletes who excel in sports other than basketball. And there’s great community support. The whole season is simply filled with “feel good” games. During the recent final game of the season, even the lacrosse team came out in full uniform to cheer the team on, said Courtney Bonfante, the district’s communications specialist who helped with this report.

“We had lots of support,” said Cameron, who would have loved to play more. The district hopes to add a unified bowling team to the athletics program in the future. But for now, the basketball season continues in May.

Coming up

Classic Crepes and Texas BBQ are cooking classes in the Kitchen Series at the Kingston Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ulster County that were filled almost as soon as they were announced. Classes will continue through September, however, offering topics such as cake decorating with sugar flowers in May, knife skills and canning strawberry jam in June, pressure canning in July, dehydrating in August and handmade pasta in September. Details are available through or by calling 340-3990, ext. 326. The classes will be given by Janie Greenwald.

Barbara Bedell’s column appears daily. She can be reached at 346-3125 or by email: