A blog post last week mentioned a basketball encounter my husband had at our local YMCA where he stood up for a fellow player who had special needs. I received a lot of comments from people I know who had read the blog and heard the story, but one email in particular came from someone who had recently seen a video of a story I had seen many years ago. Apparently, just last week, a pastor in Cleveland, Tennessee (my hometown) showed footage of a high school basketball game during his sermon he titled “Overcoming Limitations.” The story goes like this.
Four years ago, the news sports director of 13WHAM TV in Rochester, NY, Mike Catalana, did a unique report that subsequently ran on CNN and now is literally shown around the world on YouTube. The story, titled “Unlikely Hero,” features Jason McElwain, a highly functioning autistic boy who is a student assistant for his high school basketball team. The feature continues that during his senior year at Greece Athena High School in Rochester his coach decided to let him play in a game, his first. He had a lot of support from the team, and students attending even wore T-shirts with Jason’s picture on them.
His first shot attempt was an air ball, but then something spectacular happened. With his next possession, he scored a three point basket, and then he kept on scoring each time he got the ball. In fact, the Catalana notes Jason scored a team record-tying six three pointers during the game. After the game Jason said, “I was on fire. I was hotter than a pistol.”
Why are these two blog posts about basketball games similar? Because two young men who had been written off by some as disabled were given the chance to shine and simply be a part of a team. I watched the story again, some four years since I had first seen it air, and I wound up with tears in my eyes again. I knew what was going to happen as I have seen it several times over the years emailed to me from friends, but it doesn’t change the emotion I feel every time I see with my own eyes when someone is advocating for a person with special needs. In fact, if only given the chance, anyone, even those with disabilities, can be found overcoming their limitations!