November 23, 2010
In Special Sports League, everyone’s an All-Star
With music echoing through the gymnasium at the Bernard Milken Jewish Community Campus in West Hills, the crowd rose to their feet as the names of the Special Sports League All Stars were called out over the loudspeakers. More than 30 players got a moment in the spotlight as L.A. City Councilman Dennis Zine presented each with an all-star medal before the start of the basketball league’s third annual season finale Nov. 14.
Founded in 2008 by Jacques Hay and his family, the Special Sports League provides children and adults with developmental disabilities an opportunity to learn how to work with others through basketball. The league consists of 33 players, ranging in age from 6 to 36, and each is given a free uniform, trophy, medal and pictures.
Hay says that unlike his Camp Chesed, a special-needs summer camp he founded in 1993, the league is open to people from any religious background.
“Camp Chesed and the Special Sports League are some of the greatest secrets going in the Valley,” he said.
Each player was given an opportunity to play in the all-star game, which featured a live play-by-play announcer, a pep band from El Camino Real High School and cheerleaders from California State University, Northridge. Each game, including the finale, ends in a tie in order to keep the league fun and its players’ confidence up.
Joyce Tucker says her 23-year-old son, John Tucker, has played for two seasons. “[He is] becoming a team player, gaining confidence and learning the basics of the game,” she said.
During the halftime show, John Tucker performed a dance routine and cheer squads from CSUN and Camp Chesed rallied the crowd.
One of the youngest players in the league, Skylar “Luke Skywalker” Alcorn, 7, has enjoyed his first year with his team, his mother, Eileen Alcorn, said.
“He loves the team play,” she said. “All of the players look out for each other.”
Alcorn said the experience has also made her young athlete more confident. “He made a basket on his first day, and that really nailed it down for him,” she said. “He really looks forward to going to every game.”
At the end of the final game, Hay announced that Tom Ira Evans (T.I.E.) was the MVP. And since the make-believe Evans wasn’t available, the MVPs would each share in the honor by receiving a trophy.
“It was perfect, very special,” said Hay, who described the mood as electric. “The kids felt they were all-stars.”