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Get your (basketball) game on

The Canyon Courier - 1/31/2018

Everyone was cheering for both teams.

It was perhaps a little unusual at Evergreen High School, where the spectators are known to cheer as loudly as possible to give their Cougars a home-court advantage.

But everyone playing in Sunday night's game had a home-court advantage.

The Evergreen Park and Recreation District hosted its fifth annual Special Olympics Basketball Showcase at Evergreen High School.

The showcase allowed about a dozen Special Olympians and more than 30 EHS boys and girls basketball players to enjoy the crowd, the game and the fun.

"It's incredible that so many people come to participate," said Andrea Bartkovich of Evergreen, glancing at the benches full with almost 50 combined players, and the crowd of a couple hundred people. "There's so much support from the high school (students) and the community."

The showcase started with a Hero Awards ceremony, which recognized five longtime volunteers and contributors for the EPRD special populations program.

Afterward, athletes and volunteers participated in a clinic where they practiced passing, shooting and dribbling before playing a unified game.

Bartkovich's son Nicholas Nemmers was taking part in his third showcase, after he started playing with the weekly league in Lakewood through EPRD.

Bartkovich said she especially appreciated that the high school students were guiding Nemmers through the game and being so patient with him.

Nemmers' teammates Grace Arnold and Luke Williams said they had participated in all five showcases.

Williams was a 2017 Hall of Fame inductee for Special Olympics Colorado. He was named the male athlete of the year after being involved in Special Olympics for more than 15 years.

Williams said he enjoys playing basketball, and especially loves shooting and passing.

Arnold, an EHS junior, said that, after 10 years in Special Olympics, she still gets nervous before each game. However, she added that having her mom there to support her helps her overcome her nervousness and get ready.

Arnold said the showcase was important to her because it was an opportunity to play with her EHS friends and classmates.

Mom Lisa Arnold commented that the showcase was a unique opportunity for all the Special Olympic parents to get together, as the families can be very spread out during the rest of the year.

"There's a sense of community," she said of the event.

She clarified that while the showcase isn't a major fund-raising event for the EPRD Special Populations program, other EPRD-hosted events are, including the annual Polar Plunge.

EHS senior Lexi Hellums said that while it was her second time playing in the showcase, she has been helping with the EPRD special populations program for six or seven years.

The game has a unique feel, she described, because the Special Olympians are funny, and there's probably a higher attendance at the showcase than at other Special Olympics events.

"It's a way to show support for people who live in our community," Hellums said. "... And, it's great to play a sport (with the Special Olympians) that we both love."


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