Text and photos by Steev Riccardo
OXFORD- The Oxford High unified Special Olympics basketball team will be competing this coming Sunday, February 10, in a qualifying event in Weston in preparation for the Special Olympics, which will take place at Clark University in Worcester on March 9 and 10.
The team practiced this past Saturday at Oxford High School in uniform to get ready for the qualifier.
Oxford High School Principal Kevin Wells, who also coaches the team said, “I had an older brother who had Down Syndrome and my masters degree is in Special Education; I have always had a passion for students with learning disabilities, as well as with regular education kids.”
“Patty Ross came to me a few years ago and we had the opportunity to join Special Olympics of Massachusetts as a unified high school,” said Wells. “With her as the driving force I went to the school committee and the superintendent and they allowed us to do this. We have done a lot of fundraising. We started with cheerleading and then we started track and basketball. We are going into our second season. This is a unified team. We have helpers who are student athletes and students with disabilities and it’s just a lot of fun. They pay attention and they love it.”
Ross, who is the local program coordinator, also has a daughter, Nicole, on the team. “It’s really nice to see more people getting involved. As a parent, it’s great for me. My daughter loves being part of a team; she loves the competition aspect. She loves when she gets a basket and people cheer for her. It’s like any other kid who plays any sport.”
One of the student volunteers is senior Cindy Vo. “It’s a way for me to hang out with Nicole Ross, who I am in the Best Buddies program with. It’s like a family; it’s really fun, and it’s a great way to get involved with a great program.”
Senior Andrew St. German also enjoys helping out. “We help them learn the basics of basketball. It’s a lot of fun.”
Kara Stockhaus, whose son Justin is on the team, said “Justin has been doing this for two years and it helps him socially and physically because he gets to be around kids with similar disabilities and he has formed friendships doing this. Physically it’s good for him because it gets him moving more and it makes him feel special and he’s very athletic.”