Extra Effort: Washington Teams Make Players Feel Special

Local Sports

WASHINGTON, Ill. — No going back to bed for the Washington basketball teams on the first Saturday on the new year.

Early morning practices for the boys and girls varsity teams were followed by a day of volunteering, officiating, score keeping and coaching players with special needs.

“We think it’s really cool to give back to these kids,” said senior Dane Nieukirk. “A lot of them look up to us. To come here and see them having fun and us having fun, I think it’s really cool for them to see us here.”

The Panthers volunteered with the Heart of Illinois Special Recreation Association tournament, played Jan. 4 at the Lakeview Recreation Center in Peoria.

The players on the floor hope to someday win a Special Olympics medal. The Washington players who were working off the floor want to be a part of that journey.

“It’s building bonds with other people, not just your basketball team but with people in your community,” said junior Devon Vanderheydt. They look up to us, they obviously like to play basketball. They see us and they like it.”

Said senior Cami Marshall: “We came this summer and helped the (players). It’s so good to give back. They come support us, there’s no reason we shouldn’t be giving back to them.”

It was a win for the teams playing and for the teams helping.

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