John Carroll University opened its doors to members of the Special Olympics basketball league on Saturday, Jan. 30. The game was between Lake County’s Special Olympics basketball team Deepwood and the Middleburg Heights-Berea-Brook Park team, MBB.
The University serves as a neutral site for both teams to compete in a formal setting. To make this event a possibility, The Department of Athletics, the Center for Service and Social Action and the student athlete advisory committee collaborated.
Assistant Athletic Director Jane Evans, was a main facilitator in organizing the Special Olympics at JCU.
The origins of the event sprouted several years ago. She stated, “There is a team in Lake County called Deepwood and they contacted me a few years back and we have kept the tradition to host one game before one of our Saturday afternoon JCU basketball games.”
The event is not only fun for the teams involved, it is also exciting for Evans. She said, “This is actually one of my favorite days of the year. I love our John Carroll games and all of our varsity teams but it is so exciting to have this game. They have found their opponent and it turns out to be a really nice event for them and for John Carroll.”
Deepwood coordinator Chris Bundy worked closely with Evans for the event’s four years. Bundy said, “I enjoy it just because they’re great individuals. Watching them compete in sports in general is amazing. It means a lot to them. They all set their watches to it. Every year they ask me if they are going to play the John Carroll game,” said Bundy.
It has become a tradition for the Special Olympics game to be held on a Saturday before a JCU Men’s Varsity basketball game in the Tony DeCarlo Varsity Center.
After their game, the players were treated with pizza and refreshments, giving them the opportunity to socialize with members of the other team and volunteers as they waited for the JCU game to begin.
Jane Evans is thankful for the student volunteers and John Carroll basketball coaches who understand the importance of the event.
She says, “The administration and coaches allow us to have the court for an hour on game day, so the obstacles are really very few. The challenges are easy, especially when you have a volunteer group of over 30 students show up on a Saturday morning at 10 a.m., ready, willing and excited, to take on the job.”
With the help of students and cooperation of the school’s athletic coaches and administration, Jane sought out other partners at the school.
She said, “This year, I partnered with the Center for Service and Social Action and a number of student volunteers. Staff volunteer, Louise Barman, [also] came out to help serve as team greeters and hosts. We also had volunteers running the clock, the P.A., and refereeing. It’s really a nice opportunity for John Carroll to do some service on our campus.”
Members of the women’s varsity soccer team volunteered their time to help host the event and support the athletes. “This is such a humbling experience as collegiate athletes because their hard work and dedication is inspiring,” said sophomore Justina Fortson, who was working among the volunteers.
“As I watched them today, I think about how much joy the sport can bring for everybody. Everybody all shapes and sizes, whether they have a disability or not, or whether they are an elite athlete. It’s just, there is so much joy that can be had. It’s great to be a part of it. Special Olympics is also a partner of the NCAA. I also think it is important to strengthen those relationships locally,” said Evans.