Special Rec Players Bring ‘A’ Game To All-Star Basketball Games

OAK LAWN, IL — On a recent January evening, players from the park district’s special Recreation basketball program gathered for media night. It was a chance for the players to pose for their official “trading card” photos, hoisting basketballs for Phantom jump shots, in preparation for this weekend’s Special Recreation All-Star Basketball Games.

The Oak Lawn Eagles will be bringing their game to Oak Lawn Community High School, 9400 Southwest Highway, Saturday, Jan. 22. The Eagles’ A, B, C and D teams will engage in four inter-squad exhibition games. Doors open noon at OLCHS, with opening ceremonies at 12:30 pm, with games scheduled for 1:15 pm 1:40 pm, 2:30 pm and 2:55 pm

The effervescent Oak Lawn Pep Squad cheerleaders will perform at 2:05 pm A split-the-pot raffle 3:20 pm, there will be a split-the-pot raffle. Oak Lawn Parks Special Recreation Supervisor Todd Mallo said it’s a day Athletes look forward to all year.

“The friendships are huge,” Mallo said. “We’re on our 13th Basketball Day. These players have known each other since they were 8 and 9 years old, playing on the Junior Jordans. Their families are friends.”

Anne and Dan Fritz are in their third year of organizing the games before the Torch is passed to another parent. The Fritzes Belong to the Special Recreation Athletic Support Association cooperative. SRASA is a parent organization separate from the park district, that raises money to help families with extra costs, purchase uniforms and equipment, and training for the Special Olympics Illinois games. Their son, Ben, participates in the program.

“For Benjamin, this event has brought out the performer in him,” Fritz said. “Giving him the confidence to ham-it-up in front of a large crowd. That confidence helps him in all aspects of his life.”

The park district’s special rec basketball teams draw players from Bridgeview, Burbank, Evergreen Park, Chicago Ridge, Palos Heights, Crestwood and Hometown. Participants’ range in age from high school to 40. Many of the players have been shooting hoops together since 2005.

The Eagles D team, comprised of players who are still in high school, won their regional and will be headed to Illinois State University in March for the Special Olympics Illinois’ state basketball tournament.

Oak Lawn Eagles D Team wins regional

Oak Lawn Park District’s special Recreation program supplies a steady stream of Athletes who compete on the state level. Mallo is bringing an alpine skier and four snowshoers, who qualified for next month’s Special Olympics Illinois Winter Games in Galena.

The Oak Lawn Eagles will split their teams and square off against each other for an inspiring afternoon of basketball and sportsmanship. While the squads will be playing in front of hundreds of family members and friends, the rest of the town is invited to pack the house, too.

Admission to the Special Recreation All-Star Basketball Games is free, but donations will be accepted at the door. SRASA will be raffled off a big screen TV. There will also be plenty of Basketball Day ‘swag’ for sale.

The Oak Lawn Bank & Trust is a major sponsor and donor of this event, along with All Saints Lutheran Church in Orland Park and PepsiCo EnAble. Concessions will be offered with pizza donated by Palermo’s and hot dogs from Whittingham’s Meats in Alsip.

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