A look back at the top stories of 2017. January. Torrington becomes a Unified Champions School. Well deserved. Original 1/10/17.
TORRINGTON: As Torrington Athletic Director Michael McKenna looked and watched a program he helped launch four years ago, the Raiders Unified Sports program, you could see the pride exude from his very being.
It was McKenna who was tasked with launching the CIAC sponsored program and he knew just who to ask to get things off the ground and the rest, as they say is history.
The two leaders McKenna picked, Gerry Carbone and RJ Poniatoski have made it into one of the strongest programs in the state and on Monday night, the program was honored by the organization that champions it, Special Olympics.
Torrington High School was named a Unified Champion School by the national organization and the well-deserved honor now proudly hangs on the wall inside the Connie Donahue Gymnasium for all to see.
On Monday, Kennedy brought a team to play the Raiders between the junior varsity and varsity games and the joy and happiness that follows every one of these events was on full display as it has been since day one.
A nice crowd settled in to the gym to get a taste of just how important this program is, something that happened rather quickly in Torrington.
“This is how it has been for us since day one,” McKenna said. “This took off from the very first event we held.”
This is the first year the award has been given out and for the Raiders to get one right out of the gate is completely appropriate.
All you have to do is watch RJ and coach Carbone interact with the players, on and off the court.
RJ takes care of the on-court decisions with Carbone right by his side, enjoying every bit of it while shouting words of encouragement to the athletes on the court.
It never matters who scores in Unified Sports, everybody cheers on every possession, a made shot or a miss. Want to see ear to ear smiles? Go to Unified event.
Think about how much Unified Sports has helped with one of the toughest issues facing our schools and society in general today, bullying.
Who were the kids who used to get bullied? The special needs kids.
Not anymore, not if the mentors in the Raiders program can help it.
The number of students volunteering to help out grows and grows, to the point that they may just find themselves on the bench cheering on their teammates.
It’s a tribute to the young people at Torrington High School who understand that they will get more out of this than they think and the effects will last a lifetime.
“They can’t wait to get in,” McKenna said. “There are kids who we have to tell that we have plenty of kids right now but they come anyway. These are the kids who rise to the top in everything they do. We are always happy to have the kids here, they are good kids who have made lasting relationships with these kids in the program, the Unified kids. The Unified kids now walk up and down the hallway with their best friends, who are their partners in the Unified Program.”
Torrington was joined by Wolcott, Wilby, Oxford and Crosby in garnering the award.
A terrific honor for a program that so richly deserved it.