Note: The following story and photos appeared in the Big Rapids Pioneer and are courtesy of Sports Editor Marty Slagter.
"Sharing A Special Bond"
By Martin Slagter
Pioneer Sports Editor
BIG RAPIDS— Lay-ups, jumpers, dunks and smiles were plentiful this past Thursday during the annual Area 5 Special Olympics basketball game, featuring Ferris State men's and women's basketball players at Jim Wink Arena.
The game, a fundraiser for Area 5 Special Olympics, featured teams combined with local Special Olympics athletes, teamed up with members of Ferris basketball teams.
For Special Olympics athlete Nick Borders, being able to share the court with Ferris State basketball players was a great experience.
"It means a lot to me to be able to play with them," he said. "It makes you feel like a pro to be able to put the Ferris State jersey on and play with players that I look up to."
Area 5 Special Olympics Director Pat Rosales said the annual event was in jeopardy after plans with a Ferris student organization that puts the event together fell through. The men's and women's basketball team made sure the event went on as scheduled because they felt it was important to share the experience with Special Olympics athletes.
Ferris State men's basketball player Jerrell Sanders said he enjoyed the experience of sharing the court with Special Olympics athletes.
"Just seeing the joy on their faces after they make a basket is great," he said. "It's something you don't get to see every day."
Rosales said she was glad to see the Ferris basketball players made the extra effort to make sure the game was played.
"Our athletes start playing their basketball season in January, and they're already talking about this game then," she said. "I think our guys really look forward to being able to play with them and put on the Ferris State uniform."
Ferris State men's basketball coach Bill Sall said his players get as much out of the experience as the Special Olympics athletes.
"I think this just goes to show that basketball is a game for everyone," he said. "It's a game that transcends everything. It's refreshing to see that this is a game that everyone loves to play."
The game also gives Ferris basketball players a chance to give back to some of their biggest fans, Ferris State women's basketball coach Tracey Dorow said.
"We get support from a lot of these athletes at our games all season," she said. "I think everyone had a great time. I hope it means a lot to them."