Athletes Compete for Gold in Twin Cities

146 Special Olympics State Basketball teams vie for gold

BLOOMINGTON - Basketball is in the spotlight in Central Illinois this week. The IHSA Basketball State Finals continue in Peoria and the NCAA Tournament is underway. But there is another tournament taking place in Central Illinois. Special Olympics basketball hosts 18-hundred athletes from across the state.

Coach Greg Stephenson told us, "I bet before the day is out, you are going to see a smile on one special kid's face... And that's the moment I’m waiting for."

Coach Stephenson knows his team is something special... He's put his team through their paces more times than he can count.

"We actually play kids in the peer groups in the schools. We try to integrate as many games as we can with special needs kids... It's just awesome" said Stephenson.

Last week, Canton High School athletes join their Special Olympics counterparts for skills tests and scrimmages.

Stephenson explains, "We try to incorporate as many games as we can with regular school kids."

That's not the only way his school helps out...  Hundreds of students stayed after school to give the team a proper sendoff to the tournament. They lined Canton High's halls and a drum-line led the athletes through the cheering crowd.

Holly Roos is the mother of an athlete… "It was amazing, great, emotional, it was great to see all of the kids in the hallways giving high-fives, showing their support for our kids. We have an amazing school district and i'm really proud to be a part of it and see them support our students like this."

The emotional journey these players take is nothing compared to the thrill parents, coaches, and fans get from seeing their athletes succeed.

Roos again, "No matter your ability, you are an important player on that team and that has been a tremendous lesson for everybody."

The Special Olympics State Basketball Tournament continues all weekend at the Shirk Center in Bloomington and the Horton Field House in Normal.

BTW… The Little Giants brought home the gold


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