Lyons Township High School prepares a special Pack the Place
Updated: January 14, 2013 6:16AM
WESTERN SPRINGS — There’s a very cool event coming up at Lyons Township High School on Tuesday, Dec. 18: the LT Special Olympics Basketball Team/Best Buddies Pack the Place.
It seems that last year when Lyons Township played Riverside-Brookfield, the RB Special Olympics basketball team held a Pack the Place event, and some of LT’s Best Buddies realized how fun and rewarding it would be to plan a Pack the Place event to benefit LT’s Special Olympics Basketball team. (Hey Best Buddies: I hear you’ve declined to any recognition of your efforts because you want the evening to focus on the athletes. FYI, you’re awesome).
The LT Special Olympics Basketball team has grown over the last 15 years from just enough kids to have one team to nearly 40 kids; LT now has three teams.
A couple of years ago, when she was a freshman, LT Special Olympics basketball player Claire Slattery joined her team to head down to Bloomington/Normal for the state championships.
“It was an experience of a lifetime for all these athletes and their families,” says Claire’s mom, Missy. “It was amazing to witness the growth the athletes had achieved in their skills, regardless of their varied abilities, as well as the friendship and camaraderie of the team.”
The team brought home a silver medal that year, honoring their coach, Gail White, who had passed away shortly before their trip to state.
LT’s Best Buddies program pairs kids with and without disabilities together to hang out, attend group and school activities and sports events, go to movies and lunch.
“All the students, with and without special needs, benefit from Best Buddies,” says Missy Slattery.
The Pack the Place event is from 6-9 p.m. Dec. 18 in the north campus fieldhouse, and will feature three LT Special Olympics Basketball team games, at 6, 7 and 8, as well as half-court basket shot contests between the games. Admission is $3 per person and includes a chance to participate in the half-court contest.
The event will also help to raise funds for new uniforms for the Special Olympics basketball athletes. The team was able to raise money last year to replace the hand-me-down uniforms for one of their teams, but they’re “hoping to raise enough to purchase uniforms for the other two teams,” says Slattery.
“I’m excited about Pack the Place because it’s gonna be so much fun!” says Claire Slattery’s friend and teammate Grace Furjanic. “We got new uniforms and I really like them. We get to wear the new uniforms for the first time at Pack the Place. I like being on the LT basketball team because I really like playing basketball.”
Jaclyn Gay, LT transition teacher, Best Buddies Sponsor and Special Olympics basketball team coach, says, “We usually have 15-30 spectators at our games, and they are typically the players family members so playing in front of even 100 people would be a huge deal. Our goal is to make these three games as memorable for our players as possible.”
Jim Slattery, Claire’s father and Special Olympic booster, said it would be difficult to find a group of kids “who are truer competitors and play for the joy of the game with all their hearts.”
“I could not be any prouder of my athletes and Best Buddies officers and members! They are all so dedicated to what they do!” says Gay.
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