GREENSBORO, N.C. – The countdown continues to the 2023 New River Polar Plunge, which raises money to support the athletes and programs of Special Olympics Virginia.
One Virginia Tech basketball superstar knows the impact the organization can have. For Elizabeth Kitley and her sister Raven Kitley, Special Olympics has involved the entire family.
“It’s a good outlet for her to be herself, because I feel like a lot of times she doesn’t feel like she can be herself, but in environments like that, she’s just really comfortable and 100% Raven,” Elizabeth said about Raven’s participation in Special Olympics.
Talent and athleticism run in the Kitley family. Elizabeth is one of the best college basketball players in the country, a leading force on Virginia Tech’s women’s basketball team and the 2022 ACC Player of the Year. Her dad Ralph Kitley played at Wake Forest University. Her sister Raven is a powerhouse in a variety of sports through Special Olympics in their home state of North Carolina.
“Rollerskating, floor hockey, I tried softball, and then I tried soccer,” Raven said.
Raven has also played basketball, participated in track, and cherished the chance to play volleyball with Elizabeth on a Unified team that brings together athletes of all abilities.
“It was nice to know I knew I had her back. She had mine,” Raven said.
“She watches my games all the time and was always following me around, so for me to get the opportunity to watch her do her thing and be a part of that was really fun and special,” Elizabeth said.
Ralph said it was a delight to watch his daughters support each other and play together.
“Whether it be me on the sideline, or Elizabeth helping coach her or they’re actually out there together, whatever it is, it gives us all something we can do together and see Raven and athletes like Raven shine in their element with each other. It’s incredible,” Ralph said.
The Kitleys have also worked as a family, and with Virginia Tech, to spread a message of inclusion. For the past two women’s basketball seasons, Virginia Tech has hosted an autism awareness game. Those efforts, and the efforts of Special Olympics, are working to create communities that celebrate all abilities.
“There’s just not too many environments, kind of like I was saying earlier, where Raven gets to be surrounded with people where she feels like really understand her, so Special Olympics definitely offers that for her, and I know just how much fun she has doing it, and for that, I’m grateful.”
On Saturday, Feb. 4, Special Olympics presented Virginia Tech with a national banner recognizing the school’s commitment to inclusion.
You can support the inclusion revolution by signing up here to take the Polar Plunge or making a donation to the cause.