Score A Friend Showcases Acceptance

One nonprofit organization that is important to me is called Score A Friend. The person who created Score A Friend, Sarah Greichen, is positive, hard-working, and passionate about family and empowering people with special needs to achieve a greater purpose in this life.

She lives the phrase inclusive friendships like few people I have ever known. I first encountered this devoted young woman at the high school that I attended in 2014.

Let me set the scene:

I was sitting alone at lunch. As a young girl with Down syndrome, that happened to me often. I was no stranger to loneliness. Sarah sat beside me, and together we discovered that we were both on the swim and dive team. She was also becoming a member of Special Olympics Colorado’s Youth Activation Committee (YAC), a group that plans activities for Special Olympics athletes and young partners who are not intellectually disabled. I had been on the committee for some time. Sarah was joining with her twin brother, Jacob, who has an Autism Spectrum Disorder.    

Sarah (right) and her brother Jacob (left)/Taken by Theresa Greichen

When Sarah was 13 years old, she realized that Jacob didn’t have any friends, and this broke her heart. She saw that students made friends through school, sports, and clubs. She decided an inclusion club that would welcome all individuals with different talents and abilities might be a chance for Jacob to connect with other students.

As members of YAC, we all learned about Special Olympics programs called Project Unify and Unified Clubs. This new club would be different, because it would be all about connecting people with one another. Special Olympics loved what Sarah wanted to add and supported her ideas and vision. She created a Score A Friend club model to be used in schools from elementary to college.

You might be wondering: What do Score A Friend Clubs do?  

They promote and support the inclusion of students of all abilities in schools and in the community. Members work together to address issues that impact students and advocate for them. Students interact together in unified sports and unified elective courses and have the opportunity to collaborate with organizations for community service. Overall, these clubs build inclusive friendships and activists. In many ways, these clubs highlight the pure kindness and acceptance that many long for.  

I mentioned how Sarah and I first met. From the very beginning, when Sarah came beside me, I have felt important and valued.

“Inclusion to me is just walking up to someone and being yourself. Being inclusive is having a human connection without placing judgments before it,” Sarah said.

As for the club Sarah envisioned, Score A Friend chapters are under development across the country. From the start, I have been privileged to be personally involved in this terrific organization. Score A Friend is an organization that really keeps me engaged in spreading the power of meaningful friendships. It is an organization that channels all of the possibilities that kindness and community can bring about.

One of those possibilities is that a lonely young girl with Down syndrome might Score A Friend for life. I did with my now best friend, Sarah Greichen.

If you want to get involved with this wonderful program, you can:

Commit to being an inclusive, accepting person.

Start your own Score A Friend club.

Donate to the cause.

Hanna Atkinson

Hanna Atkinson 23, lives in Littleton Colorado. She has been an avid public speaker and gave the commencement speech at her high school graduation. She became a Denver 7 contributor in 2015 and was awarded the Heartland Broadcast Emmy in 2017 for her segment "More Alike Than Different." Hanna was selected to be a Special Olympic International Health Messenger in 2017 to educate fellow athletes on becoming their best in sports and in life. She is creating a business to inspire joy, acceptance, and empowerment in memory of her brother, and she volunteers for many community nonprofits. In Hanna's free time she likes to ski, cycle, works out, plays chess, and listens to classical music.

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