Unified Heart

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My heroes.

My son came back from Regionals – Unified Team Basketball today totally stoked. Even with his right arm in a cast, he found a way to get on the court, help his team, and represent his high school for the first time as a freshman.

With a look on his face that uplifted me and broke my heart at the same time, he quietly announced, “I had so much fun, mom. I’m doing this every year.”

I’m a reporter, so I probed further.

He told me that when he goes to practice, even if he can’t jump in there like he used to before he broke his finger, he’s blown away by the pure joy and excitement of these Special Olympics players. They’re so happy to be a part of the fabric of normal life that they can barely contain themselves.

These kids don’t let their so-called disabilities hold them back. They don’t let a bad day get them down for long. They have zero ego, zero attitude, and zero excuses.

So what’s ours?

One of them is such a fantastic three-pointer that my son — a terrible shooter — asked him for tips. “It’s a secret,” the kid said. Priceless.

His coach said that the high school mentors may go in thinking they’re teaching the Special Olympics athletes a thing or two. But they soon find out that they’re learning a lot more.

My son says he’s inspired by them everyday to be a better version of himself, which is partly why he decided to go in there today at Regionals — even with cast literally in hand — and be the rebounding specialist he’s known for.

He also learned about another special athlete with only one arm who received a basketball scholarship and is out there kicking ass. This athlete doesn’t have the luxury of getting a cast removed in two weeks and getting his arm back, either. Perspective, right?

My son isn’t the only one learning a thing or two.

And, you should see these games. They’re packed to the rafters, everyone there for the right reasons, everyone 100 percent supportive.

I remarked to my husband that it’s a shame the whole wide world couldn’t operate like this.

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