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An event to remember

This past Thursday, I learned two valuable lessons.

Sunday, March 17, 2002

This past Thursday, I learned two valuable lessons.

First, if I want to relive my athletic past, I had better start exercising more. Secondly, and more importantly, members of the Open Door Jets and Tri-State Industries basketball teams are PTPers (Dick Vitale jargon for "prime-time players).

This week, I was one of

several representatives of local media outlets to participate in the Lawrence County Board of Mental Retardation/Developmental Disabilities’ "MR/DD March Madness." It was a very rewarding – and humbling – experience.

The event was held at Dawson-Bryant High School and was part of MR/DD Awareness Month, which is being observed in March. The first game pitted the Jets against some alumni of Open Door School (the Jets triumphed 57-47). In the second game, our "media all-star" team blew a

double-digit lead and the Tri-State Industries team beat us 53-49.

As far as I’m concerned, the outcome was not surprising. While working as a sports editor for newspapers in Jackson, I had the privilege of covering some games of Hope Haven School, Jackson County’s MR/DD school. One year, they won the state championship.

In our game, there was no special treatment – we were just outplayed and outhustled. It is obvious their team has good chemistry and exemplifies the trait that is paramount for all good teams in any sport – teamwork.

It is that same teamwork that helps those with disabilities overcome obstacles and achieve goals many feel are impossible. It’s the teamwork of the Board of MR/DD, the teachers and instructors at Open Door, Tri-State Industries and the Lawrence County Early Childhood Center, family members and the people with disabilities that make it possible for these individuals to become successful in any endeavor.

After the game, Jimmie G. Thacker, superintendent of the Lawrence County Board of MR/DD, said he hoped the media would have "a greater understanding and respect of people with MR/DD." I, for one, already appreciated those with disabilities, but the event did intensify that respect and understanding.

It is important for all of us to realize that people with disabilities can do a lot of things – including play basketball – and do those things well. The one thing to keep in mind is they have the determination to succeed, and that helps them win most of the battle. They believe in themselves and are surrounded by people who believe in them.

I would like to thank Sarah Diamond Burroway, grants and special projects coordinator for the board of MR/DD, for inviting me to play in this game. Even though my legs are still aching, I had a blast. I am looking forward to playing in next year’s game, but hopefully I’ll be in a little better shape.