GRADSA partners with First Baptist Church to form basketball league | #specialneeds | #kids

Sunday is World Down Syndrome Day and the Green River Area Down Syndrome Association (GRADSA) has a lot to celebrate. After acquiring its first permanent location last month, the association is now in the midst of organizing its first basketball league for individuals with Down syndrome. 

GRADSA partnered with First Baptist Church in Owensboro to form the league, which will play all of their games at the church’s downtown gym. Brad Winter, the church’s minister of community engagement and activities, has a sister with special needs. He developed the idea after seeing other churches form similar leagues. 

GRADSA executive director Tiffany Thrash said the league is the first of its kind in the area, and she is hopeful that other groups across the state will form teams so they can have tournaments.

“We were inspired to do this because it’s important our individuals with Down syndrome have opportunities just as their peers do,” she said. “It’s time our loved ones with Down syndrome receive award trophies; it’s time they are chosen as the MVP; and it’s time they’re celebrated for winning the game.”

The co-ed league is only for individuals with Down syndrome and will feature two age groups — 6-12 and 13+. The league will host games weekly from August through December with practices slated to begin in July. 

“I would like for the community to join us at games and cheer our teams on,” Thrash said. “Our teams would also love to participate in basketball-related community events as well so please keep us in mind.”

The organization is still working on a name for the league as they strive to find the perfect coaches for their teams. The teams will determine their own mascot and team colors. 

GRADSA is constantly searching to find more opportunities for individuals with special needs. With physical and extracurricular activities often at the forefront, they also boast three dance teams that perform at various events. 

March is celebrated across the country as “Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month,” but Thrash thinks that “Abilities Month” would be more fitting. This league is just one more way that they’re operating under that narrative. 

“Ability Month is a time we celebrate what connects us,” she said. “It’s the time we acknowledge the benefits we all bring to the table, a time when humanity should take center stage and differences fade away.”

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