Best Buddies basketball game tradition continues


Last Friday during halftime of the boys basketball game against Pike, members of Best Buddies were divided into two teams – one red and one white – to face off in a 15-minute basketball game.
Best Buddies pairs students with intellectual and developmental disabilities with students in general education. Each pairing is required to meet up weekly. Many do this by having lunch in school while others go to games, movies and even get ice cream together.
Each month, the pairings come together for a collective club meeting.
The game aimed to represent the inclusion of students with disabilities. It was made possible by the dedication of the Best Buddies leadership, including staff member Kathryn Flynn, senior Charlotte Geller and junior Hayley Washington.
Flynn works with students with minor to severe disabilities. She is a transition teacher, meaning she helps 18 to 22-year-olds. She is one of the sponsors of Best Buddies.
“It gives our kids opportunities that they necessarily might not get otherwise,” Flynn said, “It gives them friendships, teaches our students that do not have disabilities about acceptance and tolerance, about our students with disabilities. It makes them more appreciative of their own lives. It is so inclusive and such a great program.”
Within the club, select students take on the responsibility as officers. This year, Washington is the vice president. She has been with the club since sixth grade.
“I thought it was cool to be involved in,” Washington said, “I have stuck with it ever since. I like to see all the pairs interacting; I know they are supposed to do stuff on their own with their buddies, but at our events, I like to see the friendships made.”
Washington’s buddy is Gabe Otrell. The pair participated in Friday’s game together, but it was not their first adventure at a boys basketball game.
“We went to the Teddy Bear toss basketball game,” Washington said, “Neither of us had gone before. The announcer said to throw our teddy bears out after the first basket, so we did that. We didn’t know he would announce when to do it, so ours were the only three teddy bears on the court for a second.”
As vice president, Washington is on track to head the club next year as president. This year, Geller is in the presidential role; she has been in Best Buddies since her freshman year.
“My neighbor was the president the first year that I started,” Geller said, “I got paired with a great girl, so I started coming more often and I got involved my sophomore year. Now, I work in A hall during the first period and I am approached by people saying, ‘I am so excited for Best Buddies.’ It is great to see everyone included in things.”
Geller’s buddy is Emerson Irons. Over their time as a pair, one trip sticks out to Geller.
“We went to 100 Acres,” Geller said, “I had never really walked with her and did not know she walks so fast; we could not keep up with her. I talked to her mom after; she said Emerson and her dad hike all the time, which was great to know.”
As president, Geller was involved in setting up the basketball game for the buddies.
“We had to figure out a date, the teachers had to reach out to kids to see who could play and we had to get consent forms,” Geller said, “We had to have basketball practice the Tuesday before and we got one of our cheerleaders to help us with cheers.”
One part of planning that Flynn appreciated was the spirit week leading up to the game.
“They made the spirit week for the Best Buddies game and did a lot of really great work promoting it,” Flynn said.
For the game, the two teams were made up of students with disabilities who could play, though some needed assistance from their general education buddy. Other students cheered along.
Washington, who played in the game with Otrell, got to experience the excitement first-hand. Together, she and Otrell scored one point.
Amidst the fun, though, were some challenges.
“It was a bit of a challenge to make sure all the buddies were okay, that they were running to the right side of the court,” Washington said.
Nonetheless, the experience was found rewarding.
“It was enjoyable and fun,” Washington said, “To watch them pass to each other, shoot the ball and communicate that way was great.”
Geller participated on the sidelines as a cheerleader. While she enjoyed watching the game, one individual – Evan Jones – made the experience all the more memorable.
“One of our nonspeaking buddies who often does not like noises was shooting the last shot and the entire crowd started cheering his name,” Geller said, “He also does not smile that often, but he had this huge big smile on his face and it made me happy to see him that happy.”
The game ended 20-10, with the white team winning. To Flynn, it is not the score but the deeper meaning behind the game that is important.
“I loved watching everybody cheer; that was so great. It was so much fun to see their faces; you could tell they felt included and part of the school.”

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Cailyn Robertson
Cailyn Robertson, Sports Editor
Cailyn Robertson is a junior and has been involved with NCHS Live! since her sophomore year. Robertson plays soccer at IFA and is a part of Hispanic Honors Society and Med Club at NC. She has two dogs, two cats and likes to read.
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