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The Stark Royal Knights are ready to rock Louisville High School

Canton Repository - 1/9/2018

Jan. 09--The Royal Knights of the Stark Public Special Olympics play basketball games in a variety of gyms. Few places feel as much like home as Louisville High School. The Royal Knights return to Louisville at 7 p.m., Thursday, to host the Medina Flash in what has been become one of their best drawing games of the season.

"It's the highlight of the year for the kids on the team," Royal Knights head coach Sean Broom said. "We have several kids from the Louisville area on the team and they have a lot of friends and family that come out to support them. Last year, we had close to 1,000 people in attendance. It was hard to find a seat."

It's not only the crowd that makes the night special for the Royal Knights. Louisville also goes out of its way to ensure the Royal Knights, whose players range in age from 17-28, have a true varsity experience.

"They are amazing hosts," Broom said. "They have player introductions for the kids and everything. It's a lot like being at a varsity level high school basketball game."

It's an impressive venue and experience, and it allows the players to showcase their game to the entire community.

"That's a big deal to these players," Broom said. "It allows them a chance to go out and play in front of their peers and classmates. They don't get that opportunity every night. That's part of what makes this game so special."

The Royal Knights are roughly halfway through the regular season, and they play between seven and 13 games depending on weather conditions.

"We play other regular season games at St. Thomas Aquinas and GlenOak," Broom said. "We also play in the Lorain Northeast Regional tournament. We also have a state tournament that rotates between Bowling Green, Columbus and Tuscarawas County. This year the state tournament will be at several high schools in Tuscarawas County."

Fans can look forward to a variety of events if they plan on attending a game at the state tournament later this year.

"There are five adult divisions, two school age divisions and two women's divisions," Broom said. "There is also a skills competition for players that maybe are not comfortable being part of a team and just want to focus on one event."

Putting smiles on faces is a big part of what drives the entire Stark Special Olympics program and has kept it active in the community.

"The Royal Knights program has been around for 30 years now," Broom said. "We are an independent organization. Nobody in the administration or the coaching staff is compensated. Everything goes into the programs. We are self-funded and much of that comes from fundraisers."

Thursday's game is free, but the Royal Knights ask everyone to bring some canned goods or non-perishable food to donate to the Louisville Food Bank. Last year, fans filled up four carts with food.

Those who would like to donate to the Royal Knights can do so by contacting program director Randi Buhecker at 330-353-3460. Prospective supporters can also keep an eye out for pizza roll fundraisers and gift card fundraisers throughout the year.

The Stark Special Olympics offer several other sports for special needs athletes besides basketball, including track and field, bowling and weightlifting.

"The No. 1 thing they would have to do is contact our director (Buhecker)," Broom said. "They would then have to fill out all the forms and have a complete physical and get a slip from the doctor. After they take those steps, they can participate in any of the sports we offer."

Reach Cliff at 330-580-8494 or

On Twitter: @chickmanREP


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