Phil O’Donoghue: Amherst College athletes helped make sports dreams come true
To the editor:
Living side by side with colleges in the Valley as we do, we sometimes can take each other — residents and students alike — for granted. We co-exist, pass each other in the streets and generally go our own ways.
Sometimes, however, our paths cross and we connect. And when that happens, it can be an incredible thing.
Our son Aidan plays basketball for the Hampshire County Special Olympics. Our volunteer coach, John O’Reilly, was contacted by an Amherst College senior, Jessica Mueller, who said, simply, “We want to be involved. Can we help?”
She got the support of Billy McBride, the assistant athletic director for the college, and what followed was a wondrous basketball season of Sundays at the Amherst College gymnasium, where college athletes came out to work with our young basketball team. Jessica organized these outings, and we met all kinds of students from all kinds of sports. The common ground all of us shared was the joy of participating in a team sport.
As the Sundays progressed, all of us sideline parents marveled at the improvement in the teams’ skills. And what was even more gratifying was how the commitment of Jessica and her fellow students never wavered. We finished the practice season with a pizza and cake party for our Amherst College friends, where many of our athletes all gave heartfelt speeches of thanks.
This Saturday, our teams will be competing in the statewide Special Olympics Winter Games in Worcester.
Our kids will be sporting their new uniforms that the Amherst College Athletic Department donated. But more than that, they will be playing with greater skill and confidence because a wonderful young woman decided to give back to her community, and her fellow students followed her lead.
On behalf of all the parents involved with Hampshire County Special Olympics, many thanks to Jessica Mueller, Billy McBride and our hardy band of athletes. We are all Amherst College fans.