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It's Casey Flax's hope that everyone gets to dance, and she's seeing to it

Groton – Casey Flax’s angelic voice, a staple at recent New London Youth Talent Shows and the mellow background ambiance at many local establishments, shared an idea recently that’s consistent with her sphere:

It truly sings.

Flax, a senior at Fitch, starting shortstop for the softball team and president of the National Honor Society, has spent ample time in her four high school years with Unified Sports, an inclusive program where students with and without disabilities come together, a place for everyone to be equal and to integrate into sports and into life.

Flax’s idea — reach beyond athletics and create a Unified dance (sort of like the prom) — takes the United concept beyond metaphorical and right into real-life realism, at least for those of us who consider inclusion a daily precept.

And so Friday at 3:30 p.m. in the cafeteria at 101 Groton Long Point Rd., the Unified families from Fitch, Stonington and Ledyard will, in Flax’s words, “get all spiffy looking” for the social event of the season.

“I watched a documentary about a Unified dance and thought ‘I want to do that,’” Flax said one day last week. “We got the advisors in on it and invited Stonington and Ledyard. We’re really excited.”

Unified sports at Fitch consists mostly of soccer, basketball and volleyball. But this? This takes Unified into a different realm.

“I can’t wait for it,” Unified team member Austin Morgan, a sophomore at Fitch, said. “I’m excited.”

This is an (entire) production of Fitch’s National Honor Society. Of the kids, for the kids, by the kids. They planned the details and found the money. So much for the stereotype that all teenagers today are engrossed in themselves, their phones and their drama. Clearly, there are some here who understand the necessity of seeing the world beyond their own circumstances.

“Some students won’t go to dances due to their uniqueness,” Flax said. “It’s overwhelming being with the rest of the school you don’t necessarily interact with. Now with this dance, they are with their friends and Unified partners we work with. Those are the people you want to be with.”

The dance will be underway for nearly two hours before the parents are invited, after which there will be a combined dance/sports banquet for all the participants from Fitch, Stonington and Ledyard. A Unified palooza. And perhaps an idea to be mimicked in other schools throughout the region.

Imagine an all-ECC Unified dance next year? It would underscore the beauty of Unified. The concept of “everybody’s the same” translates into a normal and natural way of life. Kids helping each other on the field. Kids dancing with each other “all spiffed up.” It doesn’t matter how fast you are or how good you are or whether you have two left feet. It matters to be accepted.

“I love the way all of our athletes think. Like the simplicity of it,” Flax said. “They don’t necessarily see the bad in the world. We work together and all kind of get each other. It’s a whole different perspective.”

Imagine, too, if we could apply everyday life to that thinking. True enough, our days are filled with people who bring us more joy by leaving the room than entering it. Still, the concept of working together and seeing the beauty of simplicity sure beats checking your phone every 22 seconds for a “like.”

“Unified helps me see different perspectives,” Flax said. “I might be stressed because of something stupid. Then you get back to celebrating something as simple as getting ourselves dressed in the morning. It’s the little things. You have to appreciate the little things.”

Which inevitably lead to big things. Such as this dance. There are unified programs in schools throughout the region. Perhaps school dances become a natural extension of sports everywhere a year from now. Stonington, Fitch and Ledyard get to participate this year because Casey Flax gets it. Hope they have the time of their lives.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro 


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