The Special Olympics, Valuing Differences

Written by admin   // April 15, 2010   // 0 Comments

I-Witness received a personal invite from a young man named Marqist Garner to join him for the Special Olympics Basketball Tournament at Homestead High School.

I accepted his invitation and decided to go see the game. Am I glad I decided to go.

Stepping into the gym, I saw Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Ray Allen and Larry Bird in all five of the games going on and believe me no one could tell them any different. Holla!

The Special Olympics mission is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with cognitive disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.

Individuals who are at least eight years old and are identified as having a cognitive disability are eligible for participation. The Special Olympics oath is: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, Let me be brave in my attempts.”

Special Olympics Wisconsin (SOWI) is a statewide organization with seven Area offices throughout the state, serving nearly 10,000 athletes in nearly 189 communities statewide. SOWI is one of the 50 state programs and one of nearly 200 countries providing this opportunity to more than one million athletes worldwide.

The average age of athletes is 30 years-old, with 189, registered local agencies. They participate in over 79 statewide competitions and have over 1400 certified coaches and over 15,000 loyal volunteers that help provide human dignity to all the athletes.

I met Marqist at Gee’s Clippers. Marqist is such a warm and caring spirit. One would not believe he is 30 years-old but looks every bit of 17.

Upon my arrival, he came to greet me. He thanked me for coming and began to talk a little about his team and the team they were playing. Should they win this game, they would play one more and should they win that one they would be headed to the state tournaments.

I-Witness sat with Katie McLbeck who coaches a co-ed team of self challengers. They don’t play any of the contact teams. They challenge themselves by shooting the basket from different designated spots on the floor. Katie states it is so much fun working with the athletes and watching them grow. Katie is the wife of Dan McLbeck who coaches Marqist’s team.

It is time to warm-up. The handsome and dashing young man called Michael Jordon, oppps; I mean Marqist began to head to the floor with his team. As he walked away, he turned back and said to me “I’m glad you came.”

I said, “thank you.”

“No, Ms. Barbara,” Marqist said, “you need to say to me, ‘God Bless You, Marqist’ because that helps me.”

I smiled at him and said, “God Bless You, Marqist.” He smiled back and headed to his team.

It was like being at the Sweet 16 College basketball games. There were at least five different games going on at one time. It was exciting!

Vel Wiley, Executive Director of MATA, the local access television station, had a crew on hand to film many of the games. One of the good games that will air is the one in which Marqist competes.

Marqist is an excellent player. He plays center /forward position. He is a good team leader.  Jeff Coleman was really good, a forward and Tony the point guard, passed the ball well and could hit them as well.

The game stayed close, these two teams were equally matched and held well against each other.

I could tell Marqist loves basketball and practices. His dad, Steve, was “Johnny on the spot,” calling out to Marqist with instructions. He was truly doing the parent thing, Holla!

We are coming to the closing minutes and the game was tied. Mike Pole hit the basket and began pumping it up to the crowd. The crowd began to cheer harder for their team.

The team’s defense was awesome and they passed the ball well. They played excellent defense striping the ball from the other team and scoring in the closing minutes moving them ahead by two points, with one minute left to play.

As Marqist posted and Mike pumped up the crowd, Marqist rebounded and his team scored. Talk about great basketball; you can’t tell me I wasn’t watching the Final Four. It was basketball at its best.

Marqist’s team won by four points and advanced to the next level. The two teams shook hands congratulating each other.

The handsome young man named Marqist looked at me and smiled as I congratulated him.

Unfortunately, Marqist and his team were eliminated in the next round. In a two-point loss, they missed the opportunity to compete at the state level.

But if you ever want to see some good basketball games, you have to consider going to see Marqist and the other special Olympians.

Hey, Marqist thanks so much for inviting me to your basketball game. It was a real treat for me. I salute the volunteers as well. They volunteer at all levels of the games. It takes special people to love people who may seem a little different than themselves. I-Witness thanks all of you for placing a value on differences.

Marqist, I think you can take Ray Allen and give Michael J a run for his money, Holla! You know the game and are a real team leader and player. Keep advancing that next generation, and giving value to your differences. I love it!

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