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December 24, 2013
Richmond High School


Christmas comes in all shapes and sizes. I received an early, unexpected present in Huntington last Friday night. It was a big night for the Richmond boys and girls basketball teams. The Red Devils were set to play Huntington North in important NCC games…the RHS girls looking to move to .500 in the conference, fresh off a big loss to Anderson. The boys were looking to avenge last years’ loss to the Vikings and start the conference season with a road win. Little did I know there was something bigger about to happen right after Richmond won the girls game.

As the game ended I noticed 10 minutes was on the scoreboard clock. That was perhaps the best 10 minutes I have witnessed in a long time.  What I saw should give all of us hope this time of year. I saw both teams come together, both boys and girls….cheerleaders standing side by side….fans focused on nothing else but a group of basketball players set to show their skills in a short 10 minutes.

The Huntington Special Olympics basketball teams were preparing to play just before the boys’ game on the main floor. It became more than just a way to fill 10 minutes so everyone could get ready for the next game. As I went downstairs, hundreds of young people had already gathered on and around the court to watch and cheer as both teams were introduced to the crowd.

It wasn’t the basketball that moved me. It was watching the reaction of the Special Olympic players as they had an opportunity to shine and feel like their efforts were appreciated. They were playing in front of a huge crowd…fans cheering from the opening tip and after every made basket. The crowd got louder as the game went along. I haven’t seen that many smiles in one place in a long time. It was a night I am sure most people won’t forget, including me!!

It was fun watching the young people who gathered together from both schools to show their support. I witnessed Joel Okafor and other Richmond players sandwiched in between players and cheerleaders from Huntington North.  Mackenzie Taylor, Destiny Perkins and the rest of the RHS girls’ team standing court-side, bunched together, cheering like it was a state championship game. For the players on the floor, it must have felt like it.

When the game was over, the fans rushed the floor. I thought I was watching Hoosiers or Rudy all over again. It gave me chills and may have even made my eyes water up a little. What I witnessed next made me realize there are so many good young people who care more about others than themselves. Richmond’s Innocent and Lucky were the first to rush the floor and put one of the Special Olympic players (he scored late in the game and became a fan favorite) on their shoulders.  That young man must have felt like he was on top of the world, not just on the shoulders of two Richmond basketball players. He was pumping his fist with a smile on his face. That's a scene I won’t forget. 

We hear so much negative about our young people these days. It’s a small number of kids who are the problem but they're the ones who get all the attention. When we hear of one or two kids causing issues we tend to throw the whole bunch under the bus. Sometimes it takes a moment like last Friday night to help us remember there are many great young people out there willing to give of themselves, willing to do the right thing and willing to let the spotlight shine on someone else….for a special 10 minutes.


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