If you’ve ever planned an event, you know there is a huge sigh of relief when it’s over. It doesn’t take long before the reflection starts, though. How was it? How did other people think it went? Was it successful? What is success, anyway? Large attendance? A lot of money made? Was enough awareness created? What could have been better? What wouldn’t you do again? And the questions just keep coming.
There are times when the questions and post-processing can overshadow the outcome of the event. Or maybe that’s just for me. Full disclosure: I tend to over-think.
For the first time (probably ever), though, I didn’t have that this week. We hosted our 19th Annual Disability Awareness Basketball Game at Memorial Gym last Tuesday. It was nothing short of amazing. Are there things I think we can add to the event or do differently? Absolutely. There will always be ways you can make something better or change it up to keep it exciting. Overall, this was the best event I’ve been fortunate to play a small role in watching unfold.
What made it so great? I’m not even sure where to start. So, let me break it down in chunks for you (and also for my brain to process).
Both teams were full of players who wanted to be there to support Bona Vista. It wasn’t about wins and losses. It wasn’t about which player could score the most points. It wasn’t about getting one player the ball the entire game. It wasn’t about serious trash talk and putting the other team down.
It was about generating awareness for Bona Vista Programs and those with all different abilities. It was about raising funds to support the 14 core programs we offer to adults with all different abilities. It was about showing a community of people that despite people’s different abilities, they are all people who want to be and deserve to be included. It was about teamwork making the dream work for all members on each team.
This year’s celebrity team included: Jessica Green (Z92.5, Rock98.5, WIOU1350), Ryan Smalley (Kokomo Fire Department Local Union 396), Brian Pier (Walgreens), Troy Stiner (Eriks Chevrolet/BV BOD), Brad Conwell (Expressions), Shelly Wyman (The Wyman Group/BV BOD), George Myers (Kokomo Tribune), Mark Jansen (Jansen’s Tax Service and Asphalt), Joni Delon (Primrose Retirement Community), Doc Hicks (FCA/Father of one of our Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council Members, Lauryn Hicks), Jimbo Rayl (UPS), and Joe Thatcher (Pro X Athlete). They were coached by LeAnn Devine (Mo Joe’s Coffee).
Wow. Wow. Wow. Thank you for showing up in support! Having people sitting in the second level of bleachers… that was new for us and so appreciated! For some of the All-Star players, getting a chance to play basketball on the Memorial Gym court is a dream come true. To play that game in front of a crowd of nearly 500 people, I can only imagine how that felt for them. It makes my heart melt just thinking about it.
There were fans who brought poster board signs, pompoms or cut out images in the likeness of the players as NBA stars. Others who wore our Bona Vista tie dye T-shirts that the adults in our AIM program make or who bought them that night to wear later! Those who shared our event on social media ahead of time, during the event and after to let people know what fun they missed out on. Word of mouth is our best form of advertising. It’s free, and that’s our favorite word!
Each year we ask different groups to entertain the crowd between quarters and at halftime of this event. Not only to give the players a little breather, but because we want to be able to include as many people as possible in this great event. We want their members to see what we do, meet some of the adults we serve and have this memory of us the next time they may hear someone mention Bona Vista. This year’s performances were given by Dance Elite, the Kokomo Dance Team, and Kokomo Flipsters performance cheer squad, KAS.
In addition to the mid-game entertainment, we were also thankful to have members of the Kokomo High School cheer squad performing side line cheers during the entire game. They cheered for the All-Stars because… well, that’s who we always want to win so we give them that little extra encouragement!
The night started off with the National Anthem performed by Kokomo High School’s honor choir, too. And, I was beyond impressed! 10/10 would recommend them at your next event. I was so proud of them and their director who considered our event one that she wanted her students to participate.
This event doesn’t look like it takes many volunteers on the surface. And, compared to our Greatest Spectacle in Tasting event in May, it doesn’t. However, there are some key players who donated their time to make it run like a well-oiled machine, and we are so thankful! Tim Knowland from Coca-Cola Kokomo is our head referee and has been for years. He always recruits others to help him, and they do a fantastic job year-after-year! Then, our announcers. Not only do they give the play-by-play, but they always add a little color commentary to keep the event interesting and keep the crowd laughing. This year, Brandon Bishop from Coca-Cola Kokomo and Chris Lowry from Bona Vista and 1350 AM WIOU took that job and crushed it like the couple of professionals that they are.
This year we added a couple of new positions that I was pretty excited about. Thanks to our Coordinator of Transition Services, Miriam O’Malley-Long, we had two Pre-Employment Transition Students, Austin and Zach, volunteer as athletic trainers. They provided both teams with water and towels for when they worked up a sweat. They tended to their every need with a smile! In addition to being trainers, our Pre-ETS staff and students worked the concession stand, and did a fantastic job!
Then, there is the scoreboard and scorebook. Yes, we keep score. Yes, we even document who makes what buckets. The final score in this year’s game was 64-49 in favor of the All-Stars (yes, again!). And, when someone in your family works for a non-profit, everyone in the family works for the non-profit, right? That’s why this year’s scoreboard and scorebook were kept by my amazing husband and daughter, Nick and Makenzie. I was so proud of their willingness to step up and do whatever we needed.
You’ve heard me mention Kokomo High School several times in this article. And, while they may not be performers, volunteers, crowd members or players, some of the most unsung heroes of the event are the custodial crew at Memorial Gym. They are rock stars! They let us in whenever we need, they help with whatever we ask, they clean up after we leave and they do it all without a single complaint and a smile. We appreciate them more than we could ever say. They go above and beyond each and every year, and we couldn’t do this event without them and the blessing of the Kokomo School Board.
Also, thank you to the staff for their tireless efforts in making every Bona Vista event a success. Troy Bowers, Community Education Coordinator, has been in charge of this event pretty much since its inception. He utilizes the month of March to its fullest capacity by providing tours of BV and disability awareness presentations to organizations within the community. We couldn’t do it without him!
I’m sure there are people I am forgetting. That’s the downfall of doing a “thank you” type article. You will, without fail, leave someone out. But, trust me, I appreciate every single person who had anything to do with this event. If you missed it, we hope you’ll plan to attend next year. We guarantee you’ll have a great time or we will give you the price you paid for admission back… oh, wait… it’s a free event so there’s no reason not to join us!