NEW YORK CITY - Dreams are becoming a reality for the 16 members of the U.S. Special Olympics Floor Hockey Team.
And to get to this point, the teammates -- eight students from Ethical Culture Fieldston School, a private school in the Bronx, and eight Special Olympic teammates from P.S. M721 -- were able to form a different kind of squad.
"This is a unified team," one coach said. "And what unified sports is, is that it allows athletes both with and without intellectual disabilities to participate in the sports that they love on the same teams and on an equal playing field."
The team came together faster than anyone could have expected. They started training a year ago in preparation for the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria in March. The team came home with a bronze medal following a win over China.
But in the process, they made a lifetime of memories and created a new perspective on life.
"It's been a learning experience," one team member said. "On the first day, we didn't really know each other. But after that, we just started bonding with each other, and we got to know each other's background and started building a family."
The coaches overseeing the program saw the great relationships being formed right before their eyes.
"It has been an amazing journey for these kids," another coach said. "It's an ongoing love fest here, they just really get along great. It's beautiful to see."
The celebration doesn't end anytime soon, either. At a recent trip to a Yankees game, the team was honored for their achievements. They're also going to receive another award to add to the growing list, set to be recognized at the ESPY Awards Wednesday night.
"What else is there?" another student said. "We got a nice bronze medal. We got an ESPY. I mean, it's been a great experience. I think it's shown how great we can work as a team and how our differences can really unite us."