State tournament bound Blackhawks Special Olympics Basketball

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Aiden Knight takes a free throw shot during a scrimmage game. (Melissa R. Collum/Courier Press)

The entire Prairie du Chien special Olympics basketball team and their coaches are heading to state tournament play on April 15-16 in Oshkosh. (Melissa R. Collum)

By Melissa R Collum

The Prairie du Chien special Olympics basketball team has been hard a work preparing for their state tournament April 15-16 at U W Oshkosh.
Team has been practicing two evenings a week since their win in March. The team and their coaches are ready to take their past experiences and put them to the test.
This will be Ole Peterson’s eleventh year playing basketball. Peterson is not concerned about winning, but just want everyone to have fun.
Kevin Thein, who has been playing for four years likes the competitiveness of the game. “I hope we play well and that we win.”
This the first year Rick Bartels has been working with Special Olympics basketball.  He has enjoyed getting to know the players and working with them. “These are some very fine and very nice athletes. The sportsmanship that is taught among these athletes is tremendous. It is something that needs to be taught at other athletic events.” Bartels also notes that the players “always cheer, no matter which way the game is going.”
Damon West is excited about going to state for the first time. West moved to PdC eight years ago and started playing with the team. “It is fun for people with disability to get out and do stuff. It gives them the opportunity to get out, not sit at home and not be a bump on a log.”
Becky Brunning is the PdC Special Olympics manager. She got involved with Special Olympics a number of years ago when she was working at the Opportunity Center. “My favorite part is that everyone works together. They make sure that they are a team,” notes Brunning. “They have the true meaning of sportsmanship that everyone could learn from.”
The coaches and players know that not many members of the PdC community know about Special Olympics. “We are a hidden gem and more people in the community need to know that we are here,” comments Brunning. “The more we get our name out there, people will see what we are about.”
One wish that Brunning has is that there would be more volunteers from the community. “All you have to do to be a volunteer is to fill out a form and pass a background check. The time commitment is anything that they are willing to give,” states Brunning.  If you are interested in becoming a volunteer with any of the Secial Olympics sports offered in the area you can contact Brunning on the PdC Area Special Olympics facebook page.
There will be a walk through for the Special Olympics basketball team next Friday  at Bluffview Middle School as they leave for state. Tentative time is set for 8:30 am. Contact the school if you are interested in supporting the team.
The spirit of the team and the desire to foster growth and camaraderie is summed  by Coach Bartles “Whether the score is in our favor or not, we are still going to win!”

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