Assistant athletic director, students acknowledge sports as force for good


Dance Marathon participants high five other participants during the start of the event last year. Maximus Shurr, Dance Marathon executive committee member and junior, said the overall support and awareness raised by this event contributes to its consistent success. (Annie Salter Submitted Photo)

Alivia Romaniuk

Assistant athletic director Jeff Hester has one memory that stands out when thinking about sports as a force of good in the world.

“In 2015, when I was the athletic director at Columbus North, our best player was Josh Speidel,” he said. “He was a Division 1 basketball recruit and an Indiana All-Star.  He was involved in a head on collision car accident that almost took his life. As a result of the accident he suffered permanent brain damage.

“The community of Columbus and many others throughout the state came to his support and helped the family with many needs that arose.  The University of Vermont still honored his scholarship and he was able to graduate last spring.”

Speidel’s story was featured in a 2020 article by The New York Times. He had the chance to play for the first time in five years when he began the Senior Night game with an opening layup. 

“His story of perseverance has been a source of inspiration for many,” Hester said. 

Meade (Victor) Hicks, Cabinet member, lacrosse player, and senior organized a charity event at his lacrosse game back in March to raise money and awareness for Riley Children’s Hospital. 

He said the event was called the Carmel Lacrosse FTK night and was inspired by the basketball team’s involvement with charity events, which “helped with the initial initiative for the idea of bringing (charity events) to more sports programs at Carmel.” 

According to Hester, the basketball team typically does a “Coaches vs Cancer” event, which is connected to the National Association of Basketball Coaches and benefits the American Cancer Society. Unfortunately, Hester said that events like this one have been less prevalent lately due to COVID-19. 

However, Carmel Dance Marathon still plans to occur in person on May 15, with proper COVID-19 restrictions in place. 

“Due to the pandemic, we moved the marathon later in the year and the event will take place outside,” Maximus Shurr, Carmel Dance Marathon executive committee member and junior, said. “This change of scenery ensures the safety of our students while we raise money for those in need.”

According to Shurr, the Carmel Dance Marathon will include dancing, games, and guest speakers and will last six hours. The event will raise money and awareness for Riley Children’s Hospital, while allowing participants to have fun and be active. Shurr said he believes the event is successful each year due to the awareness and support from everyone involved.

“I believe the success of our past events is due to all of the passionate and caring supporters,” Shurr said. “Hundreds of students raise money throughout the year by selling tickets and asking for donations…Ultimately, the collective effort of our community makes dance marathon such a success.”

In addition, Hester said Champions Together has been a huge catalyst for inclusion and philanthropy at CHS. 

According to Hester, Champions Together is a partnership between the IHSAA and the Special Olympics and “promotes servant leadership among student athletes while changing their lives as well as the lives of those with intellectual disabilities.”

Hester also said that the recent Mr. Carmel charity event raised almost $8,000 and “brought awareness to the importance of inclusion and acceptance to those with intellectual disabilities.”

Elizabeth Price, member of Champions Together and senior, said she agreed that the organization promotes inclusion and changes lives.

“I am almost certain I would not be the same person I am today if I had not gotten involved in Champions Together and Unified Sports,” she said.  “I have gained so much confidence in my ability to be a leader and advocate for my friends whose voices are often not heard by others.”

Price also said that Champions Together and Unified Sports allows students with disabilities to be highlighted for their abilities,  rather than their disabilities, which has made the culture at CHS more inclusive and accepting of these students, making them a “true part of the student body.”

Moving forward, Price and Hester said they would like to see Unified Sports expand and be afforded greater opportunities and recognition.

“I would like to see Unified Sports expand so that there could be a boys and girls team in track,” he said. “I believe that by having separate teams, more students could get involved.”

  “I hope in the future that people from all aspects of CHS will finally understand that Unified Sports expects to have the same opportunities and treatment as any other varsity sport at CHS,” Price said. “ It is so important that everyone understands that our friends with disabilities should have the same opportunities as anyone else. If more people would join our movement to make CHS more inclusive, our school environment would be accepting and inclusive for everyone.”

Read more about Josh Speidel’s story:

Click here for more information on Carmel Dance Marathon:


DANCE ON: Dance marathon participants follow the moves of the dancers on stage during last year’s event. According to Maximus Shurr, Dance Marathon executive committee member and junior, the Dance Marathon lasts for six hours and participants dance, play games, and share stories. (MAXIMUS SHURR SUBMITTED PHOTO)