NEW PARIS — The annual benefit basketball game between the Preble County Cougars and the Preble County Generals was held on Saturday, March 17. The reigning champs kept their title as they, once again, defeated the Generals in a landslide. Not only was the day fun for all, but it also worked to raise awareness for the Preble County Board of Developmental Disabilities and its clients.
The Preble County Cougars team is made up of DD players of all ages and abilities. The Cougars compete throughout the year against other Special Olympics teams in the region. The Preble County Generals team is made up of local “celebrities,” such as Sheriff Mike Simpson, National Trail Superintendent Jeff Parker, and other notable names.
According to Special Olympics Coordinator Regina Fullmer, the Cougars respect the Generals’ team members and feel honored to play against them.
“One of the main reasons we have the event is to make our communities aware of the DD members. Many of the individuals would be great employees if they were just given a chance. Their attendance levels are unbelievable, and they are very good at detail work,” she said. “March is DD Awareness Month and that is why we do it. People need to know that these people are really capable of a lot of things. They’re just like us and want to enjoy life just as much as we do.
“Sometimes we limit them, but they are very capable. People put DD people in a box and they shouldn’t be, they should be a part of our community.”
Superintendent of Preble County DD Bethany Schultz explained, “This has been a tradition in Preble County for several years to celebrate Disability Awareness Month. Our Special Olympics players come out and play against the celebrities of Preble County. I like the strong sense of community that this event brings. Everybody is out here having fun, playing, and working together.”
“The Cougars are phenomenal. There are varying ages and abilities,” Schultz said. “They play a regular season with other Special Olympics teams throughout the months of January and February. They are fantastic players and they really look forward to this day. All of proceeds from this event benefits Special Olympics, which helps them with all of their sports. Every time we do a sport they get t-shirts. They have the Track & Field Day coming up, a bowling event, a dance, softball, and basketball. Fullmer would like to get new events started if we could get enough donations.”
“All of the proceeds go to fund the sports themselves, as Special Olympics is volunteer-only and has costs associated, such as transportation and uniforms,” Schultz explained. “I think this event spreads awareness about what we do for people with developmental disabilities, it shows that they’re people just like everybody else. They play, work, and live in the community just as you or I would.”
She added, the event would not be possible without Fullmer, the coaches, and Jeff Parker and the National Trail Local School District, who hosted the event.
As for the role the school district plays, Parker said, “We’re just trying to help out and be a good community member. Some of our kids participate in services through Preble County Developmental Disabilities. We’re trying to get some of our kids out here to support them, as well. Three years ago, when we held our first Outreach Day, this game was the day after and we talked to them about combining the two events.
“We’re trying to be a good community member and spread awareness. We announced it every day at school, posted on social media, have the high school principal playing, and even have one of our students playing. We don’t always see struggles that other people may have to deal with each day, so it is good for our kids to see that. We’re thankful to be able to host this event.”
During the halftime show, two people were honored with awards. The first was Shelby Hoskins who was awarded Cheerleader of the Year, but was not present to accept the award. The second was Adam Jackson who received Most Improved Player of the Year.
Following the game, Jackson said, “It’s a great experience playing with the Cougars. Of course, we won. I know people are usually sleeping at 10 a.m. on a Saturday morning, but it means a lot that they came out to see us play. We have fun and that is all it is. I was not expecting to get Most Improved, honestly I was shocked. It is a great honor. I have a great group of teammates. Thank you to everyone for coming out to support us.”
Preble County Sheriff Mike Simpson was the coach of the Generals. Simpson said the game was a great opportunity for all of the Generals to give back to the community.
“If we can come out and give a couple hours to allow the Cougars to have a great time, that’s what it is all about. This is a tremendous event and it is good for everybody to understand what these people are about and to support them. I’m excited about being here,” Simpson said.
“I hope to do this again next year. It’s important for the Sheriff’s Department to be a part of this, because we are a part of the community. A lot of times we’re handling the bad stuff, but this is an opportunity for us to come out and be a part of the good stuff. Every time we have an opportunity to be a part of something like this, we’re more than welcome to it. I think this brings a lot of families together throughout the county and everybody is here to have a good time.”
Fullmer added, “A huge thank you to all the Generals Players, we cant wait to do it again next March. Of course, the Cougars plan to win again! Special Olympics in Preble County is completely funded by donations and completely run by volunteers. We are always looking for volunteers to help with our activities. Our next big event will be the annual Track & Field Event to be held on May 5 at Twin Valley South Football field. We need approximately 75 volunteers for that day.”
Volunteers can send an email to email@example.com or to P.O. Box 273, Eaton, OH 45320.
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH