by MELISSA UTTER
Our Ram basketball players are ferocious on the court. Don’t tell the opposing teams this secret, though: those Ram players are softies with hearts of pure gold.
Special Treasures is a group of parents and caregivers of children who have physical, cognitive, social and medical differences. This group meets once per month to support, educate, encourage and share resources with other parents who have children with “diff-abilities.”
Special Treasures’ children received the gift of time from both the girls and the boys basketball teams over Christmas break. Tom Carlson, who guides Rockford Athletes with a Mission of Service (RAMS), along with Amy Kelley, one of the founders of the Special Treasures group, coordinated a two-day basketball clinic. The clinic was free to the participants, as all of the athletes and coaches generously gave of their time to enrich the lives of these children.
The first day involved the girls basketball team, and the second afternoon was reserved for the boys team to serve this special population. Varsity players were poised and patient with the Special Treasures children. The atmosphere was charged with enthusiasm. It was obvious that the children were star struck with the wonderful abilities of the players. A three-point shootout, two-handed dribbling demonstration and slam dunk exhibition had the children cheering. The Special Treasures children were able to participate in a skills clinic that allowed them to play at individual levels that best fit their development.
Rockford players then signed t-shirts and autograph pages for the Special Treasures kids. The basketball teams’ fan base grew quite a bit those two afternoons. Parents were so grateful for the opportunity for their children to participate in a sports clinic where competition was not stressed, but camaraderie was king.
There are few athletic opportunities for children with special needs. The Special Treasures group is working to change that. Partnerships in the past to provide athletic opportunities included archery at the Rockford Sportsman’s Club and Wolverine baseball and now the recent partnership with RAMS and Rockford athletics. Generous donations of time and talents make these opportunities possible for children who are not able to typically participate in regular athletics. The group has expressed an interest in exposing the Special Treasures children to a variety of athletics. If you are interested in partnering with them or have a “special treasure” of your own and would like to join the group, please contact Amy Kelley at firstname.lastname@example.org.