Club Unify’s 5K a success

Students Unite for Common Cause


Roxanne Panas

Liz Liska and Brian Nigbur begin their run. They dressed up as Mario and Luigi, winning the costume competition.

Roxanne Panas, News Editor

Over 200 runners and walkers gathered at the New Berlin West track to participate in Club Unify’s first annual Friendship 5k in partnership with Special Olympics and the New Berlin West cross country team. The event was met with excitement and support, as students, parents, administrators, and officials came together to promote unity in the community.

Club Unify is an organization at NBW that focuses on the idea of forming bonds between regular and special education students.The main goal of the Club Unify is to create a safe environment where everyone is included in discussions, activities, and events. The New Berlin West branch of Club Unify was founded in part by student learning assistant Lyndsay Dake.

“Club Unify is…a club based off of trying to create peer interactions for students with lower-functioning…disabilities, to get them incorporated into a school club, and offer them the same type of things that regular education students can do on a daily basis,” Dake stated.

The program is run mainly by Dake, physical education and health teacher Kale Kautza, and special education teacher Lisa Brazelton. Although Club Unify is facilitated by multiple other adult advisors, Dake claims that most of the work is done by dedicated students.

“I really make [the students] be the advocates,” Dake said. “If we want to do a school event, I make them go and set up meetings to talk with administration….because that’s what we want. We want the kids to run it as opposed to [the advisors]…[the students] have to advocate for themselves and I think that’s really good because in life, you have to advocate for yourself.”

Brazelton, who is new to the New Berlin West staff, feels that Club Unify is doing a fantastic job of integrating students with special needs.

“Everybody’s on a level playing field and that’s a wonderful thing…so many times, students with special needs don’t have that…they’re kind of looking up [to others], and [Club Unify] brings everybody together,” Brazelton stated.
Founded in fall of 2014, Club Unify has been working for almost a year to set up events to promote their cause. The group worked with NBW Principal Michael Fesenmaier and cross country coach James Braun to plan the 5k.

“Some of [the cross country team members] do [work with Club Unify]…so it kind of was nice that we had a little overlap in the groups [at the event],” stated Braun.

Members of the cross country team were enthusiastic about the event, which wrapped up the team’s last season. Junior Collin Staudt, who finished the 5k in first place, said, “[I decided to do the 5k because] it was for charity and I thought it would be a good way to end my cross country season.”

“[The event] was super great and I’m really glad that we got to promote unity between the cross country team and special olympics,” said junior and cross country team member Kathryn Goodspeed.

Overall, the event was met with entirely positive reactions from runners, walkers, parents, volunteers, and even officials. Principal Fesenmaier, who ran the 5k alongside students, stated, “[Special Olympics is] a really good cause…[the event had] a lot of people [and] a lot of support, so it was…a really fun day.”

Having been the very first annual 5k, people were not quite sure what to expect as far as the turnout, the course, and volunteers. When it was all over, Kautza, one of Club Unify’s main advisors, was ecstatic about the 5k’s turn-out. “It went great…we had so many awesome volunteers, so many people [coming] out, and so many people getting excited about the event, so I’m just excited for how much it can grow,” Kautza said.

Members of the New Berlin community agree that Club Unify is a beneficial organization and that the 5k was successful. Christi Ormeroid, mother of Levi Ormeroid, a student in NBW’s Foundations program, stated after the 5k, “I think [Club Unify is] a great program [that gets] the special needs class involved with the regular ed. kids,…[blends] them together, and [gives] the special ed. kids an opportunity to do regular things with the community.”

It is the hope of members and advisors that Club Unify will continue to prosper at NBW so that it becomes “indoctrinated,” and “woven into the culture of the school,” as Brazelton described. The Club will be planning more events in the future to bring the community together.

“Club Unify is just a really great opportunity for kids in our school to get involved and help other people out and do something great, like [the 5k],” says senior and member of Club Unify Natalie Sims.

If you are interested in more information about Club Unify, please contact Lyndsay Dake ([email protected]), Kale Kautza ([email protected]), or Lisa Brazelton ([email protected]).