Photos by Steve Shay
Chief Sealth High School's Xahil McDonald, an Alki resident, threw a dance Saturday night in the school's Galleria for disabled and non-disabled students as part of his senior project. Some attending are Special Olympics athletes. These dancers are pictured doing the Y.M.C.A. song. FOR SLIDESHOW CLICK ON ABOVE PHOTO, OR CLICK ON PHOTOS IN GALLERY BELOW.

UPDATE: SLIDESHOW-Chief Sealth student throws high school dance for disabled & non-disabled kids; Senior project for Special Olympics

UPDATED Saturday, 11:00 p.m.

For SLIDESHOW click on photo above, or photos from gallery below

Xahil McDonald, host:

"I think it's been a huge success and I'm very happy with the way it turned out. It was a way to get all the kids incorporated and having fun and feeling the same."

Patricia McDonald, Xahil's mother and Chief Sealth grad:

"I have made sure to surround (Xahil) with a lot of amazing people and experiences. Oh man, I'm just in awe all the time. The first Special Olympics event he went to he was so excited. He came back with a million pictures and wanted me to see all the photos of his new friends. It was a moment when you can see something open up for your kids, a whole area of the world that he didn't know that he loved so much. I am so proud. He has several offers of soccer scholarships for college. The name 'Xahil' is from Mayan folklore. His father's family is from Honduras."

Kristian Nilssen, Chief Sealth Senior, lives in WS, Special Olympics Soccer player with Xahil and was taking photographs at the dance:

"Xahil connects with the (special ed) kids so well. Even if he doesn't know a kid and shows up he instantly connects with them. The body movements and the language he has, it's just amazing. He's a great person. He's definitely got a heart."

Nicole Nichols runs Chief Sealth's autism program and lives in West Seattle. Six of her eight students attended the dance:

"I think this is probably one of the best nights in my teaching career to see the unification of Gen. Ed and Special Ed. It's so heartwarming to see everyone having a good time. There's no label, no 'disabilities', nothing. Everyone is just dancing together."

Mo Vineyard thinks the dance is "Awesome":

"I do track and softball in the Special Olympics. I went to the Nationals in Nebraska in 2010. I graduated Chief Sealth in '01. I'm currently living in West Seattle, but I'm moving to Bonney Lake."

Don Freitas will coach the Chief Sealth Unified Soccer Team. His son, Christian plays. Both live in West Seattle:

"The Unified Soccer Team is a really good program for the (Special Ed.) kids. It gives them a lot of confidence and shows them they can do anything they want just like other kids. It's good for others who are not with Special Olympics who want to help. I love my kid and I like sports so it all goes together really well."

Chief Sealth senior, Xahil McDonald, said he wants to "give back to the community", yet the generous student is just 18 years old. McDonald, an Alki resident, will throw a high school dance for both disabled and non-disabled Seattle-area high school and middle school students in the school's Galleria. This is part of his senior project, and ties into Special Olympics.

The dance is this Saturday, Feb. 23, 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. and he said students from West Seattle High School and other schools are expected to attend. All students are invited.

"The dance was initially going to be just for Sealth, but then I wanted to broaden it because I've become connected with many people around the city through Special Olympics," McDonald said. "It seemed like a great thing to have a night where kids with disabilities can feel in the loop. A lot of times they don't attend these social gatherings like dances and basketball games, and I wanted to present the opportunity for them to really feel included.

"I also wanted kids that don't have disabilities to come and see that kids with special needs are really not too different from you and me," he added. "Just because they behave a little differently doesn't mean they are any less of a person. For me it's a way to break down the social barriers that accompany having a disability, and spread the message that Special Olympics projects, acceptance and unity and everybody being treated equally. It was a way for me to give back to a community that has opened my eyes to a lot of things.

"My interest in Special Olympics started when I was a freshman and heard about the Unified Sports Club at Sealth where I played soccer," he said. "As I spent more and more time with the kids and the people involved I fell in love with the whole program and the values it holds."

The Unified Sports Club is part of Special Olympics Project UNIFY® is an education-based project that uses sports and education programs to activate young people to develop school communities where all youth are agents of change – fostering respect, dignity and advocacy for people with intellectual disabilities, according to its website.

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