Twenty-five disabled athletes of all ages poured into Shape Gym on Feb. 21 with one thing on their mind — playing basketball. The men’s basketball team teamed up with the EDD Memorial Fund to teach these athletes basic fundamentals of basketball. After a short introduction of the coaching staff and players, members of the team went to different areas of the gym with small groups of the disabled athletes to work on their shooting and dribbling.
Then, Coach Paul Culpo brought all the athletes together to play a few games, starting with a shooting competition and ending with a dribble relay. As they competed Castleton players encouraged them and cheered them on.
After a half hour, The Bulldogs arrived. The Bulldogs are a team of men and women with disabilities who play in tournaments around the United States. The local kids, including Colton Folmsbee of Fair Haven, seemed in awe of them.
From the moment Colton entered the gym, he was full of energy and eager to play basketball. He ran over to the closest hoop, set his feet, placed the ball between his legs and launched it at the rim. Castleton players watched as the ball flew in the air, seconds later, the ball dropped down through the net.
“Wet,” Derrick Faragon of the Castleton team yelled.
Colton dropped to his knees, threw his hands in the air and screamed “Oh Yeah.”
The excitement on Colton’s face brought a smile to everyone near the hoop.
The afternoon ended when the athletes with disabilities joined men’s team at mid court for a photo shoot. After the photo shoot, everyone congregated in the main lobby of Glenbrook Gymnasium. Well, everyone except for one youngster named Alan.
Alan spent an extra 10 minutes working on his three point shot with Castleton players Pat Winn and Greg Hughes.
Alan was on a cold streak when an adult told him he needed to go with the rest of the athletes to the lobby. He took a couple more shots and finally after what seemed to be a hundred shots, he sank the three. He was ecstatic and jumped into the air, slapping high fives with Hughes before leaping into the arms of Winn.
“I will never forget that moment,” said Winn, ” He was so excited, it got me thinking about how much I take for granted. It seemed like in that moment Alan was on top of the world and nothing could take him down.”
The awards ceremony was full of emotion. The faces of the athletes were full of excitement as they made the walk to the founder of the EDD Fund to accept their awards.
But there was one individual, Eric Schwacke, who stole the show.
“Eric was the life of the awards ceremony,” Castleton Student Assistant Coach Chris LaPointe said.
During the ceremony Eric was cheering for everyone as they accepted their T-Shirt and certificate. When he received his t-shirt and certificate he raised his hand in the air and yelled, “Woo Hoo.”
Eric was born with Down Syndrome, a condition in which extra genetic material causes delays in the way a child develops, both physically and mentally. Eric has spent his life in both Vermont and New Zealand. He attended elementary school for a short amount of time before his parents decided it would be best if he was home schooled until high school, where Eric became a social butterfly.
“The kids treated Eric like as if he was made out of gold,” said his father, Fred Schwacke.
While in New Zealand, Eric participated in the Special Olympics where he swam, skied, bowled, and played basketball. Just four months ago Eric and his family returned to Vermont. Eric is now looking forward to participating in the Special Olympics here in the United States.
Eric and his father hope to organize a business that will be run by and for individuals with limited abilities.
“It will give them an opportunity to utilize their abilities rather than focus on their disabilities,” Fred Schwacke said.
The EDD Memorial Fund is in memory of Eric Douglas Dettenrieder, brother of founder Gretchen Owens. On March 3, 1997, at age 23, Eric died as a result of injuries sustained in a skiing accident. Eric was the race coordinator at Hunter Mountain, which gave him the opportunity to teach terminally ill children how to ski. This experience moved him deeply and became the inspiration to create the EDD Memorial Fund.
If you are interested in donating to the EDD Memorial Fund, check it out on the Internet at www.eddfund.org.