When the pandemic hit and all in-person activities were suspended, Chatham High School junior, Kate Ryan, was especially disappointed about Play Unified’s in-person events being put on hold because she knew how much Chatham and ECLC students looked forward to them.  While the club organized virtual social events, it just wasn’t the same as being together. Chatham High School’s Play Unified Club has been bringing together Chatham and ECLC students since it was founded in 2011 by Olivia Perlmutter. 

After running cross country in the fall with fellow teammate, Sydney Grossman, who had just joined Play Unified as a freshman, the two were inspired to take initiative and brainstorm outdoor COVID-safe activities that would share their love of running with the ECLC students. 

Sydney and Kate then came up with Happy Feet, a Play Unified inclusive running and walking club.  Happy Feet brings together students with and without disabilities from the ECLC School and Chatham High School and offers them the opportunity to get outside, get active, and get to know each other. They proposed the idea to their club advisor, Christine Cavallo, created a flyer, sent out sign ups, and organized events throughout the Spring. 

Sydney and Kate have led five events since April, and ended with a Fun Run celebration. 

Happy Feet’s events took place on Saturday afternoons at Loantaka’s Kitchell Pond. Aside from walking and running on the trails, the Chatham and ECLC students had fun racing and playing kickball together. 

Kate Ryan, a leader of Play Unified, said, “I first became a member of Play Unified during my freshman year of high school because I was drawn towards becoming a part of a community organization that promotes inclusion.”

“Now, two years later, I am proud to have turned a simple idea into the first in-person Play Unified event of my junior year. It makes me so happy to see everyone laughing and having fun together each week.”

Sydney Grossman, a freshman and Happy Feet co-founder states “After finding my passion for running during quarantine, I wanted to share my new interest with others that might have not had the opportunity to. I found that Play Unified would be a great start, and I am so proud of how far we have come.  I can’t wait to see how we can build upon what we have achieved so far.”

Happy Feet is now a new part of the club that Sydney and Kate hope to grow and continue in the upcoming years.