ALLENDALE, Mich. — It was another great turnout at the GVSU Fieldhouse on Tuesday night, but it was about more than just basketball.
"It's actually it's an honor," Area 5 athlete Kim Kenyon said, "it's an honor to come to Grand Valley and play basketball on a beautiful court, at a beautiful school, it's great, it's really great."
Athletes from the Special Olympics of Grand Rapids, also known as Area 12, squared off with Area 5 from the Big Rapids area in the second annual Rally with the Rapids event. The night is put on by the sports management class at GVSU.
"I know sports and it's something that you may see as a divider in some aspects because of the disability that some athletes have," Rally with the Rapids director Matthew Collins said, "but this event allows people to look beyond that. It brings people together."
The game is no different than any other basketball game with passionate fans, a score keeper, even Grand Valley cheerleaders. The atmosphere and opportunity makes it one of the most memorable nights of the year for the athletes.
"It means a lot to us," Area 12 athlete Patrick Davis said, "we've been doing this for quite some time and it really means a lot."
"It's an awesome feeling," Tyler Kohley of Area 12 said, "it's one of my favorite things to do all year, because I can enjoy it, have fun, compete and show I have athlete ability."
"They look forward to this every year," Area 5 coach Mark Lawton said, "when we're playing hockey, all we hear is 'basketball season is coming up, we get to go to Grand Valley,' it really means a lot to the athletes."
The night was filled with smiles, all for a great cause as the money raised goes to the Special Olympics of Michigan.
"It means a lot because some of these people don't even know about Special Olympics," Kohley said, "it's a great way to show the community."
"This is a busy time of year for Grand Valley and other colleges," Lawton added, "it means a whole lot to us to come out and do this."
No matter what we look like, or the differences we may have, deep down, we're all human.
"We're still people," Kenyon said, "we may look different or act different or strange, but inside we're still a person. We still hang out with friends, go bowling, watch movies and stuff, we're still regular people and we'll always be that."
Tonight was only another reminder of the role that sports can play in our society.