Seymour High School freshmen Colin Madden and Montana Suits stood on the basketball court as Braeley England of New Salisbury took a shot at the rim.
And even though the ball didn’t go in the hoop, both Madden and Suits applauded her effort Saturday morning at Seymour Middle School.
Despite the setback, England passed two of the other skills stations, passing and dribbling, even though she has to have a wheelchair to move.
Madden and Suits were two of the Owls freshmen boys basketball players who volunteered to help with the Jackson County Special Olympics Basketball Tournament. That event has been organized and operated by the Seymour Noon Lions Club since 1983.
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“It’s pretty cool,” Madden said. “It helps us learn what we can do in our community to help.”
At the start of the season, Seymour freshman basketball coach Jeff Nicholson told his squad that they would have the opportunity to volunteer for the annual Indiana Special Olympics district tournament at Seymour.
“I think it’s a great chance to give back to the community,” freshman Matthew Moore said. “I think it’s a really good way for the players to get active and get into sports.”
The event features a five-on-five tournament and the skills competition for those unable to participate with a team in a game.
This year’s event included 11 teams playing each other in a five-on-five competition for trophies and ribbons. Six other teams competed in a three-on-three tournament, a new event added this year.
Lions Club member Doug Ray, who organized the tournament, said the three-on-three tournament came about as a way to players in counties who couldn’t field a full team to participate.
“It’s a good problem in a way,” Ray said. “It means that we’re having fewer people with special needs, but we still want to provide opportunities to those that want to play but can’t put a five-person team together.”
Players in the three-on-three tournament played games of 20-minutes or the first to 20 points using only half the court.
“It’s just like the old backyard games everyone use to play as a kid,” Ray said.
The freshmen Owls, along with Noon Lion’s Club members and other volunteers, served as referees, judges, scorers and guides for the tournaments and the skills competition.
“I definitely love to help with this,” Suits said.
“I have a family member with a handicap and this is a chance to understand them better,” he said.
The two freshmen refereed several games in one of the school’s two gymnasiums before heading over to the other one to help with the skills competition.
The skills portion gave those with more severe disabilities a chance to show off skills associated with basketball such as dribbling, shooting and passing.
“We have lots of different skill levels out here,” Ray said. “One guy, who has difficulty walking, participates in the skills competition and will sit on his knees and sink every shot on the shooting portion.”
Ray said Special Olympics is a chance for individuals to get out into their community, stay active and learn some skills that otherwise they might never have learned.
Ray was thankful for the help of all the volunteers, including the freshman who donated the majority of their Saturday when they could be doing other things.
“I think it’s a part of growing up,” he said. “It’s a step in life that they need to see. They need to learn to help those that might need a little help but to also see that people are capable of a lot more than you might think they are at first.”
Moore, who helped referee some of the five-on-five games, said the event gave him a chance to help others with something he loves.
All three freshmen agreed the event was something they want to continue supporting in the future.
The Lions Club also provides meals for the players, coaches and assistants. The meals are provided with the help of McDonald’s, Jay C Food Stores, and Pepsi, Ray said