Working and playing together can lead people from different walks of life to friendship and understanding. 7Everyday Heroes Heather and Clark Stukey provide a path to make that happen.
Heather Stukey is a beloved teacher at Littleton High School.
"I like my team; it's really cool, and I really like Heather Stukey. She's the best teacher in the world," said Patrick, Littleton High School sophomore.
Seventeen years ago, Heather and her husband, Clark, who teaches at Chatfield High school, started a unified basketball league. Players and their playing partners have been smiling ever since.
"A partner walks away with a new appreciation for the everyday, and an athlete walks away with a whole new sense of self," said Heather.
What started as two teams has blossomed into 19. And there is a big tournament at season's end. All of this is coordinated by Heather and Clark on their own time.
"They are just such a great team that does so much. They just go way above and beyond outside their normal teaching hours," said Laura Zlogar, Lakewood High School.
"I like Mr. Stukey, because he's the best coach ever to help with unified basketball," said Logan, Chatfield High School junior.
The players love playing in the unified league.
"I like scoring baskets," said Logan.
Teachers and coaches enjoy the league, because they see player's self-esteem soar.
"They get to be regular kids, and they get be like everyone else. They have so much fun. They get to take something home with them and be proud of themselves," said Doris Champlain, Chatfield High School.
"They are a part of a team, and they know it. They love to win. It's real exciting to watch them do what everyone else can do," said Christine Cronin-Strom, Chatfield High School.
Parents and playing partners appreciate how the league touches everyone involved.
"When she started 12 years ago, she wouldn't even look up at the other players or coaches and didn't want to participate. And now she's a little social butterfly," said Jay Neese, father of an athlete.
"It is really a rewarding experience. It's also a lot of fun. You get to go and hang out with them after school and play some basketball. I would recommend it to anyone," said Sam Kail, Littleton High School senior.
Even past players cannot stop smiling.
"Oh, it's so much fun. I love it. It's so much fun," said Steffani, former player.
"There is not a time when you don't walk away from that setting saying, 'I know way I do this,'" said Clark.
"You definitely walk away with a smile on your face, just like the athletes do," said Heather.
Mitch Jelniker anchors Denver7 in the mornings from 4:30 to 7 a.m. He also features a different 7Everyday Hero each week on 7NEWS. Follow Mitch on Facebook and Twitter. Nominate a 7Everyday Hero here.