The option to play a team sport with other children is a goal that for the most part is out of reach for children with disabilities.
But with the help of a Nevada County-based organization, local children are being given that chance and more.
In 2002, Jenell Adams, then a high school senior decided that she wanted to do something to help developmentally-challenged children have a place to play a sport and be accepted among their teammates.
With the help of her mother and father, and various others, she started Abilities Basketball.
It started small with four children participating, but now, in its sixth season, it has shown tremendous growth. The program is currently being sponsored by the Nevada County Association for the Developmentally Challenged.
The participation has jumped to 65 players strong, from 8-years-old and up.
“When we started this I never thought it would be this successful,” said Adams.
Every Sunday during the season the six teams play each other in three, 45-minute games at Union Hill Elementary School. The games provide the players and parents a place to go and have fun, socialize, and best of all, do what they love.
“It’s fun,” said 20-year-old Monte Burns. “We all have a lot of friends here.”
Nevada Union High School sophomore Rico Stephenson has been with ABB since it started and now not only plays from time to time but also coaches and referees.
“It’s a place where these kids can come and play without being judged,” he said. “Don’t underestimate these kids. They have a lot of potential. It may not seem like it, but they do.”
Along with the six teams is a group called the Hot Shots. These are the players who are ready to play with the official rules of basketball. The Hot Shots have some high aspirations for the future. They plan to develop the group into a Special Olympics team, something about which several are extremely excited.
“I can’t wait!” exclaimed Burns.
The entire program is run by an assortment of volunteers, including parents of players, educators, students, and community members.
ABB costs about $2,500 to run every year and other than some small proceeds made from the Tempura booth at the fair, it is entirely dependent on donations from the community.
If you or someone you know would like to make a donation to this program, it can be sent to: NCADD, re. Abilities Basketball, P.O. Box 112, Grass Valley, CA 95945.
Jerri Cuerden is a senior at Bear River High School. Contact her via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 477-4240.
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