Up and down the court, District 225 Life Skills game thrill for students
Glenbrook South sophomore Marco Moran during Friday's Teaching for Life Skills basketball game at Glenbrook North High School. | Brian O'Mahoney~for Sun-Times Medi
Updated: April 15, 2013 6:13AM
GLENVIEW — Cheering was loud and sincere Friday afternoon at Glenbrook North High School in Northbrook when students lined up for the opening tip off.
A mere 15 seconds later, the score was tied 2-2 at the 22nd annual Teaching for Life Skills Basketball Game for disabled students at GBN.
The team played students from Glenbrook South High School in Glenview, also with cognitive and physical disabilities.
Hundreds attended the special noon event, filling the Spartan gymnasium with varsity poms and cheerleaders, the pep band and GBN Chorale singing the National Anthem in full force.
Student paramentors helped the players on court, as well guiding them through daily classes in physical education, reading, swimming, broadcasting and architecture.
Kimberly Fisher, a life skills teacher at GBN, has been organizing the basketball games for 22 of its 25-year history.
“But all of our paramentors want to be in the basketball game to help the kids,” Fisher said.
“Is the game competitive? It’s really all about spirit and sportsmanship. They love to win, but happy if they don’t,” Fisher said before the match.
“They feel proud to be out there.”
Taylor Hoffman, a paramentor and junior at GBN, “loved” watching classmates score baskets.
“They’re so accepted here and successful,” she said.
Dana Craven’s son, David, has autism and Friday was his first Life Skills Basketball Game for Glenbrook North.
“It’s not often kids with disabilities get to be such a big part of an event. It’s heartwarming,” she said.
“Students, parents, staff, alumni and community come together to support the kids out there,” she said.
“I like the poms and fans. I play basketball at home and at Camp Chi,” said Chloe Lavarre, a junior who played for GBN.
Two minutes into the game, players were fist pumping and chasing after loose balls down court.
“Hands up, hands up on defense!,” yelled a father from the bleachers.
Elijah “Stretch” Vijayan tied the game at 2-2 for GBS.
Jeanine and Ray Jasica, drove from Western Springs to watch their grandson, Jim Mercola, play for GBN.
“He’s been on the team all four years during school. You wouldn’t see this when I went to high school,” Jeanine said.
“A lot of disabled kids stayed at home or were institutionalized.” Ray said, “But Jim has special classes, an aid, transportation and special equipment here.”
Staff members from Grayslake High School District 127 sat in the bleachers, learning about the program to start a similar event perhaps next year.
“We want to do this for our students because we lack an adaptive sports program,” said Jennifer Witkowski, a district social worker.