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WWE in the Community: WrestleMania Week: Special Olympics Unified

WWE talent, basketball players, coaches, cheerleaders, team managers and some of the crowd pose for a group photo after a Special Olympics Unified basketball game between Poinciana and St. Cloud high schools in Kissimmee. The event on Thursday, March 30 was hosted by WWE and Special Olympics Florida as part of WWE giving back to the area WrestleMania community during WrestleMania Week Orlando/Orange County.
WWE talent, basketball players, coaches, cheerleaders, team managers and some of the crowd pose for a group photo after a Special Olympics Unified basketball game between Poinciana and St. Cloud high schools in Kissimmee. The event on Thursday, March 30 was hosted by WWE and Special Olympics Florida as part of WWE giving back to the area WrestleMania community during WrestleMania Week Orlando/Orange County. Photo By Jim Varsallone

The Raw crowd the night after WrestleMania is super loud, and it’s hard to rival that noise level, but the cheers from the audience at Poinciana High School gave it a go, reaching a very high decibel for a Special Olympics Unified basketball game, hosted by WWE and Special Olympics Florida on Thursday, March 30 during WrestleMania Week Orlando/Orange County.

The high school students filled the gym for some hoops at high noon. School spirit at its finest.

To support your school team, coached by WWE superstars, while earning permission to miss class, can easily put smiles on faces. Poinciana High School Principal Michael Meechin was pleased and proud with the turnout, especially with the attendance stipulations.

That boisterous crowd -- mostly Poinciana High School students who had a minimum 2.5 GPA and no suspensions -- enjoyed a Unified basketball game between Poinciana and St. Cloud high schools, which was part of WWE giving back to the host WrestleMania community during WrestleMania Week Orlando.

Throughout the event, their yells -- coupled with the banging from their inflatable WWE thunder sticks -- sounded so booming that you couldn’t hear yourself think, let alone anyone else talking.

WWE Superstars Big Show, Dana Brooke, Mark Henry, and AJ Styles, and WWE Ambassador Dana Warrior coached the teams, and their involvement raised the enthusiasm level of the crowd and the players. WWE Hall of Famer The Fink Howard Finkel and WWE Announcer Greg Hamilton introduced the talented high school players and honorary superstar coaches and then called the action.

Unified sports bring together students with and without intellectual disabilities.

The afternoon included interviews with Poinciana High School Principal Michael Meechin, Kerri Coons of St. Cloud High School, Carolyn of Poinciana High School, basketball players Sean Coleman and Janaiya Warren of St. Cloud High School and basketball player Jaheim Guerrier from Poinciana High School.

The gym erupted when Big Show and AJ Styles almost squared off (just messing around WWE TV style). Cooler heads prevailed thanks to World’s Strongest Man Mark Henry. All in good fun.

Well organized and a great event, everyone had fun, while displaying sportsmanship before, during and after the game.

Afterward, more interviews with Senior Director of Organizational Development and Communications for Special Olympics Amie Dugan, WWE Superstar Dana Brooke, Special Olympics Florida President/CEO Sherry Wheelock and WWE Hall of Famer The Fink Howard Finkel.

The Teams

The Poinciana Unified basketball team features: Jonathan Cotto, Rey Gomez-Suarez, Justin Mack, Ebdiel Rodriguez, Antonio Rowlands, Jaheim Guerrier, Luis Santiago, Andy Tejada, Jeremie Jimenez, Andre Williamson, Julian Pierre, Benjamin Pringle. The coaches are Wayne Ricks and Laura Ricks. The team manager is Tiffany Myers.

The St. Cloud Unified basketball team features: Ana Agudelo, Nathan Benitez, Sean Coleman, Johnathan Fritz, Fabricio Guaman, Brianna Huertas, Eric Leon Maldonado, Miguel Martinez, Nash Nelson, Zakier Ramos, Carlos Rodriguez, Hunter Secrest, Janaiya Warren. The head coach is John J. Stump.

About Unified Sports

Special Olympics Florida offers 15 Unified sports.

Unified Sports is about having fun, promoting physical health and bringing people together.

Students with and without intellectual disabilities train and play together, developing a better understanding while forming friendships.

Watching the game, you couldn’t determine who had intellectual disabilities and who didn’t.

Everyone is equal on the court, and these student athletes reprsent their school and play hard, vying for a post-season championship.

Through this program, there are also leadership, anti-bullying and service learning components that help foster respect and advocacy for people withe intellectual disabilities in schools and the community.

WWE in the (Orlando) Community

WWE hosted many activities designed to give back to the local community during WrestleMania Week Orlando including that Special Olympics Unified basketball game, Englewood Neighborhood Center event, ‘Be a STAR’ anti-bullying rally, hospital visits, a Veterans employment panel, reading challenge school reading, DDP Yoga for Susan G. Komen awareness, and John Cena Make-A-Wish party.

WWE conducted more than 20 events during WrestleMania Week. That is the most in WWE’s WrestleMania history. Because of WrestleMania, WWE also held more community-related events in the host area throughout the year, leading to the busy week.

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