HIGH POINT, N.C. – Ethan Harvey, an incoming freshman for the High Point University men’s soccer team, will be taking part in a first-of-its-kind event this week, serving as a peer partner in the Special Olympics Unified Cup presented by Toyota. The first annual event takes place at Toyota Park in Chicago from Tuesday-Friday, near Harvey’s hometown of Naperville, Ill.
“I am a peer athlete that participates in the game alongside other peers and our special athlete teammates,” Harvey said. “This is the first ever Unified World Cup so this is a very exciting moment not only for me, but everyone involved from all over the world.”
Harvey got involved with the Special Olympics through a local community organization called Dupage Valley Special Athletes. Helping those with disabilities is something that struck close to home for Harvey.
“I got involved with Special Olympics because my uncle has special needs,” Harvey said. “He inspired me to get involved with special athletes and help as much as possible.”
From his experience working with kids with disabilities, he was selected to become a peer partner on Team Illinois in the Special Olympics. The Illinois team is one of three representing the United States, also joining sides from Kansas/Missouri and Texas. The tournament is run similar to the World Cup in that there are four groups of pool play followed by a semifinal and final. The game format is identical with 11 players a side and 45 minute halves.
Overall, 24 men’s and women’s teams from 21 different countries will be showcasing their soccer skills over the next four days.
Harvey and his team will hit the pitch for their opening match on Tuesday against France. The Illinois squad will then square off with Uruguay on Wednesday and Bangladesh on Thursday. Should the team advance, the semifinals and finals are scheduled for Friday at Toyota Park. The final is scheduled to air live on ESPN2 at 8 p.m. on Friday.
For more information on the Special Olympics Unified Cup, visit here.