GLASSBORO, New Jersey (WPVI) -- "This is where my heart is," said Marykate Reick, the Co-President of Unified Sports at Rowan University. "You don't get it until you go there on Saturday morning or Sunday morning and you get hooked and you can't stop."
Reick began working with individuals with special needs by the time she was in third grade. She kept that passion going as a student at Rowan University, where she hits the books hard and hits the basketball court even harder.
Rowan's Unified Sports program was established in 2012. It pairs students with Special Olympics athletes to play soccer in the fall and basketball in the spring. Today was the culmination of a sensational season where the Gold Team took home the championship title. Next month, that very team will compete in a state championship in Princeton, New Jersey.
Although she was not on the winning team, 26-year-old Kaitlin Manson is still proud of her accomplishments.
"The doctors told me I was never going to go to regular school. I was never going to be, like, playing basketball. I was going to be nonverbal for the rest of my life," she said, referring to her diagnosis with autism. "And I didn't give up."
Action News caught Manson scoring a gnarly three-pointer during her match this morning. She made it seem effortless after having overcome her most recent challenge.
"I spent a year recovering from an ankle injury," she said. "Now, I get to play basketball, doing good and maybe I would like to keep playing."
Manson was one of about 200 athletes that registered to play today while parents, siblings, and Rowan students cheered on the sidelines. The school community calls the show of support "Fans in the Stands."