Unified nightlights provide opportunities for all abilities


KIRKWOOD, Mo. – Kirkwood Freshman Michael O’Leary was a little nervous two hours before 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 whole numbers, ”O’Leary said.

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

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

He was one of more than 70 children who heard their names screaming over the loudspeaker at Lyons Memorial Field.

Kirkwood senior football player Sam Linenbroker has a habit of calling himself on Friday nights. He was one of the many volunteers who volunteered his time to make everyone feel welcome.

“Everyone is included, and I just love to see everyone smile, run and have fun,” Linenbroker said.

Unified Night Lights gives students the opportunity to participate in the experience of a high school football game that might not otherwise have the chance.

Michael has been involved since the event began in 2016.

Her mother Renée likes the event to be for people of all skill levels.

“All you want is for your kid to feel no different and to feel included and that just makes my heart happy,” said Renee O’Leary.

But it wasn’t just some action on the grill. The students also had the chance to be part of the cheering team and to play in the group.

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

“There are so many kids out there who need to have this sense of community togetherness,” said Renee O’Leary. “We are all a Kirkwood.”

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