Open Door Jets, Tri-State Industries win

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 17, 2003

COAL GROVE - Not many cheerleaders get the chance to cheer their teams to victory twice in one night.

Donnie Atkinson, a cheerleader for Open Door School alumni and Tri-State Industries did that at Dawson-Bryant High School Friday night.

"We are good players. We are number one," he said.

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Friday's Third Annual March Madness was a two-game evening of basketball that pitted the alumni against the Open Door Jets and media representatives against a team from Tri-State Industries. This was part of MR/DD awareness month activities.

"This is not a fund raiser, but an awareness raiser," Sarah Diamond Burroway, coordinator of grants and special projects for the Lawrence County Board of MR/DD, said. "This creates positive awareness of the abilities of people with multiple handicaps."

"The kids were extremely fired up," Diamond-Burroway continued. "They were ready to go before the buses were ready."

Open Door School principal Jeff Saunders said this year's crowd was twice the size of last year's.

Open Door Coach Angie Kelley said Friday's game was a good warm-up for the state championship in Special Olympics Volleyball that the students will play in March 28. They have also never played in front of a crowd this large, she said.

"They feed of the crowd, and it helps their excitement level," Diamond-Burroway said.

One alumnus from Open Door School wanted to play, but couldn't. Nathan Waggoner, a 1999 graduate of the school, was named an honorary coach for the alumni and Tri-State Industries. Late last year, Waggoner was diagnosed with bone cancer and is now confined to a wheelchair.

"This is bittersweet," his mother Carolyn said. "I know he wants to be out on that floor more than anything. This is overwhelming. He has touched so many lives, and we have had an outpouring of friendship, concern and love."

"Nathan's a hero," she said.

Under the direction of Waggoner and their other coach Scott Blankenship, the alumni were victorious, 56-48.

"Nathan was a big part of our win," Blankenship said. "This is great for MR/DD Awareness Month. People need to be involved because it helps them [TSI consumers and Open Door School students] feel appreciated by the people here."

Then, it was time for the media representatives to face Tri-State Industries.

"We're going to beat 'em," Nathan Waggoner said.

"They're going to get the same medicine we gave them last year," Blankenship said.

A sign was posted on the gymnasium wall that read, "Pull the plug on the media."

"[TSI] is very competitive," Diamond-Burroway said. "We really enjoy the support radio, newspapers and television have given us."

At the end of the second half, the media representatives from The Ironton Tribune, The Herald Dispatch, WIRO and Clear Channel Communications were ahead, only to have TSI pull the plug on them by one point, 57-56.

"It's good to see Tri-State win," TSI workshop director Jesse Roberts said.