The Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) of Eastern Nazarene College (ENC) hosted a basketball tournament for children with intellectual disabilities, based on a collaboration with Special Olympics Massachusetts, in the Lahue Gymnasium.

The gymnasium was decorated with national flags and posters showing the Olympic rings that read  “Go for the Gold” or “Be Legendary.” The bleachers were filled with ENC students, staff and other supporters.

Toni Kabilian, interim athletic director and SAAC Advisor, said that the crowd was “really energetic.”

An estimated number of 300 to 400 people showed up to cheer for and support the children with mental disabilities.

Basketball teams from the Joseph Lee School in South Boston, Orchard Gardens Pilot School (OPGS) in Boston, and Curley Middle School in Roxbury participated at the Special Olympics event in the Lahue Gymnasium on Saturday, January 12 from 9:00 a.m. until 12:30 p.m.

Each team played against each other once. Curley Middle School lost both games, and OPGS defeated Lee School in the last game. However, at this event, winning was not the most important thing. These competitions were practice for a regional tournament also organized by Special Olympics Massachusetts.

In total, 22 children were able to show off their skills at the Lahue Gymnasium. Wilken, number nine from Curley Middle School, caught special attention of the crowd, scoring 35 points in the first game and receiving the “Player of the Game” award. The fans celebrated every single point that the teams scored and provided the players with a motivating and joyful atmosphere.

“One of the coaches came up to me and said it was one of the best college crowds that they ever played in front of,” Kabilian explains. “They [the fans] cared about what was going on, and they were really into it.”

The mission of Special Olympics is to provide year-round sports training and competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for all children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

Overall, the interim athletic director concludes that, “it worked great. The whole point was basically to serve our community and have our students volunteer.”