NILES, Ohio (WYTV) – It’s a date many in Niles mark on their calendars weeks and even months in advance, when a little time on the basketball court brings the community together.
It’s become an annual tradition — students with the Fairhaven School in Niles take to the basketball court with a little help from kids at McKinley High School: coaching, playing in the pep band and cheerleading from the sidelines.
“It’s really special to me because I think it’s cool to have them have outside people come in and really interact with the players and the cheerleaders, and it’s a lot of fun,” said McKinley cheerleader Ella Perrone.
The “Blue-White” basketball game dates back more than a decade as part of the Special Olympics.
Many, like referee Rob Luklan, keep coming back and volunteering their time year after year.
“I think the kids enjoy it. I know their nicknames, I know their names. It’s a pleasure, like I said,” Luklan said.
“Watching the kids excel on the court, you know, the Special Olympics. Kids excel. It’s just a great, great thing,” said McKinley athletic director Marc Fritz.
But if there’s anyone having a better time than the Fairhaven students themselves, it may just be the parents watching their own children.
“Because you see the excitement in her. They just really love to score and you know, seeing them pass it around and share with each other and helping each other out,” said parent Carli Wojciak.
And while the players all give it their best, the final score at the end really doesn’t matter.
“It’s like a win-win, you know? There’s no losers. That’s what I love about the game for them,” Wojciak said.