Unified Night Lights provides opportunities for all abilities


KIRKWOOD, Mo. – Kirkwood Freshman Michael O’Leary was a little bit nervous two hours ahead of the 5th annual Unified Night Lights Wednesday night.  

The first year of high school can be a lot for anyone, and math was on his mind.  

“I take algebra 1.1. We do IXL for integers. I can add and subtract integers,” O’Leary said.  

Then he explained some of the other activities he enjoys as a freshman that helped get him ready for an event that brings the entire Kirkwood community together. 

“Strength and conditioning. Yeah, I like getting strong,” O’Leary said.  

He was one of more than 70 kids who heard their name called out on the loudspeaker at Lyons Memorial Field.  

Kirkwood Senior football player Sam Linenbroker is used to having his name called on Friday nights. He was one of the many who volunteered his time to make everyone felt welcomed.   

“Everyone’s included, and I just like seeing everyone smile and run around, and have fun,” Linenbroker said. 

Unified Night Lights gives students an opportunity to participate in the high school football game experience who may not otherwise have the chance.

Michael has been involved since the event started in 2016. 

His mother Renee loves that the event is for people of all abilities.  

“All you want is for your child to not feel different and to feel included and it just makes my heart happy,” Renee O’Leary said.  

But it wasn’t just action on the gridiron. Students also had the chance to be on the cheer team and played in the band.

The ultimate high school football experience was on full display under the unified night lights. 

“There are so many kids out there who need to have that feeling of togetherness community,” Renee O’Leary said. “We’re all one Kirkwood.” 

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