Unified for the Long-Run: Inclusive Cross Country Running

Gnankolle and Brahima are Special Olympics Youth Leaders in Cote d’Ivoire who are excited to lead a Youth Innovation Project to create a new Unified Sports opportunity in Cote d’Ivoire: the “Unified Route!”


The Unified Route will take the form of an inclusive cross-country running race. First, students with and without intellectual disabilities will be selected from several schools in the area. There will be between 50 and 100 athletes chosen in total! And then the fun will begin: the chosen students with and without intellectual disability will run together in a cross-country race on the same course, demonstrating unity with one another. This “Unified Route” hopes to promote contact between the two groups of individuals to facilitate the full integration and inclusion of people living with intellectual disability.


Another exciting part of Gnankolle and Brahima’s project is that each athlete will be sponsored by spectators and volunteers. The funds collected through this sponsorship program will benefit Special Olympics Cote d’Ivoire. Thus, there are simultaneous goals of fundraising, integration and awareness. That being said, Gnankolle and Brahima believe that the main purpose of their event is not to raise funds but to raise awareness. As their Youth Activation Coordinator Kamil Kouakou says, “it is not what you give, it is the feeling you get.”


Kamil has taken an active role in mentoring all of the Youth Innovation Project leaders from Cote d’Ivoire as the Youth Activation Coordinator of francophone countries in the Special Olympics Africa Region. Kamil believes that “through Unified activities, we can engage in partnerships with schools, groups and institutional leaders. Such relationships will create a permanent, open forum for discussion, planning and setting up other future activities for inclusion in school and communities in the long run.”