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More than a game: Waynedale High School hosts HCTC Bucks to a glorious day of unity and acceptance

For Bucks player and Waynedale senior Dayne Morrison, right, the game was more than just a regular game. The Holmes County Training Center collaborated with Waynedale High School to have the game at WHS, in large part to honor Morrison, shown here sharing a laugh with fellow Waynedale senior Manny Camacho during action.

Dave Mast

There was an extremely tight, hard-fought basketball game at Waynedale High School on Friday, Jan. 26. However, the score barely mattered.
 
What did matter was the way the entire staff and student body at Waynedale High School and Middle School welcomed the Holmes County Training Center Bucks basketball team for an exhibition game that warmed the hearts of all in attendance and helped draw attention to the ideal that those with disabilities can accomplish a great deal.
 
The fact that the Bucks came out on top 46-43 played second fiddle to the heartwarming stories that arose from the game.
 
“More than anything else, we wanted to make it fun and exciting for the Bucks,” Waynedale senior Manny Camacho said. “This was an amazing opportunity for us to connect with them, and coach has always talked to us about being involved in the community and what a blessing it will be when we do things like this.”
 
The game went back and forth with the Golden Bears taking the early lead only to have the Bucks storm back and take control by double digits. Waynedale came back in the second half, and it came down to the wire before Jim Miller, Dennis Hershberger and finally Dayne Morrison put the game in the bag for the Bucks.
 
At half-time Lindsey Baldridge, Caitlyn Watson and Hope Peterson, members of Waynedale High School’s Social Justice Committee, talked to the student body about the true meaning behind the event.
 
“I am honored to watch such an amazing game at our school and watch fellow students come together,” Watson said. “Even looking out into the audience, I see a group whose diversity makes them stronger as a whole.”
 
Watson said statistics show that 1-in-5 Americans have some sort of disability, but she noted that each of these people have some pretty incredible abilities and that we should all focus more on what these people can do rather than what things they are unable to do.
 
“All of us have the opportunity here to watch a game that shows how our differences can make us all better,” Watson said.
 
Throughout the contest the festivities were enlivened by Waynedale English teacher and Golden Bears head coach Kevin Stacy, who manned the microphone for some fun play by play. A gifted color commentator, Stacy had plenty of fun ribbing his own players whenever possible while lauding the play of the Bucks.
 
“I was a big advocate to bring the Bucks to our school to create this kind of a wonderful atmosphere for our entire student body,” Stacy said. “To have our entire team exposed to this means a lot to our players, and the raising of awareness was what was really important. I thought our entire school did a great job of handling this the right way. They were booing our guys and really cheering on the Bucks. We are very fortunate to have the kind of kids we have here at Waynedale.”
 
The Bucks and Golden Bears have played games before, but those have taken place at Holmesville Elementary without the student body and WHS staff in attendance.
 
However, this year was a bit different because Morrison is currently in his senior year at Waynedale, and the idea of bringing the game to the high school for the entire school to enjoy and to celebrate Morrison’s final year as a Golden Bear was too good to pass up.
 
The event was coordinated through HCTC’s Kim Miller and Waynedale guidance counselor Jen Troyer, and the school went all out to prepare for the Bucks’ arrival.
 
“With Dayne being a senior at Waynedale, we wanted to make sure this game happened on his home court,” Miller said. “Everybody loved the idea, and the entire school and their support for Dayne and the Bucks was awesome.”
 
The message of inclusion and acceptance was one of the biggest reasons for the event. Miller said the way the Bucks players and other HCTC clients were welcomed with open arms was heartwarming.
 
“This is about showing that typicals and atypicals can do a lot of the same things, just maybe on a different level,” Miller said. “It just comes at a different capacity.”
 
The HCTC bell choir opened the afternoon with a performance to begin the game, and signs supporting the Bucks were littered throughout the stands as students cheered on both teams.
 
“Our bell choir adults are trying some new things and branching out to perform at events throughout the community,” said Molli Starner, who coordinates the HCTC bell choir. “We have played at the Gospel Bookstore and other places, and while a new experience can be overwhelming at times and they can get distracted, they have done a great job, and they are pleased to be here. They put a lot of hard work into practice, and they have come a long way and are proud to be out in the community and sharing their talents.”
 
On the floor the action included some high-flying dunk attempts from several Golden Bears as well as the inspirational play of the Bucks.
 
While it was a fantastic game for all of the players, it was of particular importance to Morrison, one of the Bucks players who enjoyed a monumental show of affection from his schoolmates as he played in the homecoming game.
 
Morrison lit it up for the Bucks and had fun with plenty of give and take with his Waynedale classmates who were on the floor playing against him.
 
More than once Morrison and one of the Golden Bears engaged in some good, old-fashioned trash talk, but it was all in good fun.
 
“This was pretty special,” Morrison said of the game. “I was happy to take all the teasing they were doing, but I was talking smack to them too, so that made it fun. I thought it was really funny when Mason Higgins got that technical [for hanging on the rim]. I got on him for that.”
 
Emily Long, one of Morrison’s classmates in Melody Schlabach’s multiple disabilities classroom at Waynedale, said they prepared goodie bags for the Bucks, and they wanted to inspire the Bucks players and help them feel welcomed.
 
“We gave Dayne words of encouragement and told him if they won or lost that would be fine,” Long said. “We tried to pump him up.”
 
In addition Action Accessories of Holmesville provided T-shirts for the event, and Schlabach’s class members hoisted them throughout the crowd at halftime.
 
The celebration between the center and the high school was one that made an impact and hopefully left a lasting impression for all in attendance that being respectful and accepting of everyone is what draws people together and unites communities.
 
“It’s an opportunity to celebrate together and for all of us to realize that the more we interact with others, the more we are able to grow in the realization that we are all the same at heart,” Stacy said.
 
The members of Schlabach’s multiple disabilities classroom who helped prepare the goodie bags for the Bucks included Long, Nathan Keim, Austin Rucker, Kasy Yoder, Julian Mast, Naomi Hershberger, Ebony McConahay and Mason Johnson.
 
Members of the WHS Social Justice Committee included Baldridge, Watson, Peterson, Elijah Yoder, Madison Conrad, Kiara Gindlesberger, David Satterfield and Alex Yoder.
 

Published: February 1, 2018
New Article ID: 2018180139970