When Kenowa Hills HighSchool basketball players took to the court with some special-needs students, they encountered a challenge: One young man in a wheelchair couldn’t reach the hoop with the ball. So they set up a trash can at each end of the court and let him shoot his two-pointers into that. Problem solved.
The innovation summed up both the freewheeling spirit of the evening and the philosophy of No More Sidelines, the Muskegon-based nonprofit that brought the special-needs youths to Kenowa Hills recently. More than a dozen of them played games with Kenowa’s boys and girls varsity basketball teams.
The event was part of No More Sidelines’ mission: giving special-needs children and young adults a chance to participate in sports and other community activities. It was founded by Cyndi Blair to help her daughter Alivia, who has cerebral palsy and autism, make friends and become part of their communities.
The program, which has a Kent County chapter, involves more than 300 participants in parades, concerts and other events as well as sports contests such as Kenowa’s.
“Nobody’s left on the sidelines,” said administrative assistant Erin Dintaman. “Everybody participates. We don’t care what your physical limitations are; we’ll find a way around it so you can be part of the team.”
Varsity boys basketball coach Bill Andree brought the program to Kenowa from Fruitport Community Schools. For his players, the experience means “engaging those kids as people and not someone with a disability,” he said. “It’s a great experience because everyone wins.”