50 for 50th Profile: Kristen Chambers

Kristen Chambers has always loved exercise and teamwork. As a NCAA Division III women’s soccer student-athlete and an exercise science major at Adrian College (Adrian, Michigan), she experienced first-hand the benefits that come with physical activity and sport. However, walking through the school’s gym one day during her sophomore year, she could not predict how these two worlds would collide.

That day Chambers saw a group playing soccer and stopped to ask about it. When she learned Adrian College had just started a Special Olympics College program on campus, Chambers jumped at the chance to get involved and she spent the rest of her sophomore year participating in events. When the president of the group graduated, Chambers moved into the position, leading the activities during both her junior and senior year. During this time, she was instrumental in Adrian College being recognized as a National Banner Unified Champion School. Special Olympics North America awards this honor to institutions who demonstrate a commitment to inclusion by meeting identified standards of excellence, including hosting Special Olympics Unified Sports® (where students with and without disabilities train and compete as teammates), offering inclusive youth leadership opportunities and demonstrating whole-school engagement.

One of Chambers’ favorite memories is the inaugural unified soccer game at Docking Stadium, the main outdoor facility on campus, that she helped organize during her junior year. As they prepared to face off against the Special Olympics College Group from the University of Michigan, she took a moment to look up into the stands and was overcome with emotion. Chambers stated, “I will never forget seeing at least 100 Adrian College students, who were not involved in the program, cheering on our team and holding up posters. The fact that many students would come out to support us was unforgettable.”

Chambers said her involvement with Special Olympics has also prepared her for the future. As she enrolls in the University of Toledo’s occupational therapy doctorate program this fall, she knows her experiences with Special Olympics have set her up for success. She said, “Nothing has prepared me more for graduate school and my future career than my work with Special Olympics.”

Even more than that, Chambers knows the Adrian College Special Olympics College program has changed her as a person. “Special Olympics has made the largest impact on my life by giving me the most humbling and touching experiences. When parents thank us for all the program has done for their child, it shows just how beneficial the social and physical aspects of unified sports are. And I am so lucky to see how all of the participants — Adrian College students and Special Olympics athletes alike — step out of their comfort zones and develop the most beautiful friendships.”

[In honor of the 50th anniversary of Special Olympics and in celebration of the Division III partnership, Division III and Special Olympics have joined forces to present 50 profiles honoring the unified work of the NCAA, Division III and Special Olympics. Use the hashtag #d3SO50for50th for more profiles and on any Division III/Special Olympics activities.]