Open Hands Scrimmage Grows

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A Special Olympics player celebrates after making a basket.

Casey Miller, Co-Sports Editor

Project Open Hands joined with the Special Olympics to host a basketball scrimmage for mentally and physically disabled kids on January 26.  The club held the annual event on campus in the large gym for the 3rd time.

According to Project Open Hands co-president Alli Killeen, approximately 45 participants and 35 volunteers played at this year’s event.  The volunteers consisted of Campo students, Special Olympics coaches and associates, and club members.  Killeen said that this was “the biggest turnout ever, because each year [the event] grows.”

A wide range of disabled people participate annually in the basketball scrimmage.  Participants range from ages 10-24.  They have a variety of mental and physical disabilities, such as Down Syndrome or blindness.  They are all players on the Special Olympics’ Mt. Diablo Warriors team.  Andrew Hissen, a member of the Special Olympics team for 6 years, said, “I have a lot of friends on my team.  I joined because I wanted to make new friends and play basketball.”

The players started with stretching led by Killeen and a few other volunteers and players, then a basketball clinic, where they could practice shooting before the scrimmage.  Volunteers helped by encouraging players, giving advice, and keeping a fun and competitive spirit.  Volunteer Tiger Garcia said, “My favorite part was meeting this kid Travis.  He didn’t judge anyone, and he was just always so happy.”

Project Open Hands was founded 3 years ago by Class of 2012 alum Karina Hissen.  Co-presidents Killeen and Sam Clark took over Hissen’s position this year and are continuing to host annual events for the Special Olympics athletes, such as the baseball scrimmage in spring.

Killeen said, “Our main goal for Project Open Hands is to spread awareness that special needs kids are not that different than us.”

Club advisor Michelle Alessandria added, “My favorite part is seeing excitement on the Special Olympic athletes’ faces, and knowing the Campo students have made a difference and feel a sense of satisfaction.”