Guest Post by Special Olympics Massachusetts Intern and Curry College Student Jillian Macomber:
Kerri Gilroy was “completely shocked” when she received the news that she was selected to participate in the Special Olympics NBA Cares Unity Sports Basketball Game game this weekend in Orlando, Florida. Kerri was one of twelve North American Special Olympics athletes chosen to participate in the game. Kerri’s challenges have not stopped her from following her dreams. If anything, they made her want to achieve them even more.
Kerri is 35 years old and has been playing basketball since she was 5 years old. Her passion for playing basketball stems from her siblings, whom she says “taught her how to play”. Since her siblings all played basketball, she felt they could share a common passion, together as a family. The first word that comes to mind when she steps on a basketball court? Teamwork. “I like doing everything I can to help the team and my teammates succeed! The skills you learn on the basketball court are invaluable and can be used to help you succeed in life”. With an answer like that, it is easy to imagine the unique person that Kerri is. With her passion to work and help others also comes with the personal gratification that she receives while playing basketball. She says, “Playing basketball makes me feel like all opportunities are wide open and that I can do anything because of the skills and lessons I have learned through the games. It is a place I am very comfortable, free of worries, confident, able to be myself as well as open up and have the camaraderie of it all”. Kerri had just summarized the beauty of team sports, the personal rewards and how they play an important role helping shaping people’s lives.
There are many people who played Key roles in Kerri’s life to contribute to where she is today. One being her coach, Maureen Mcnamara, who has been involved with Special Olympics for thirty years. Maureen says that Kerri has impacted her life in many ways. “Kerri is a great athlete to coach since she is always looking to improve her game and is a great sport. She’s also very helpful with athletes who require assistance. She’s a great inspiration to her teammates and to me!”. From a coach’s standpoint, Maureen is ecstatic about Kerri Participating in the Unity NBA Special Olympics game. “Last year she participated in the National Games in Nebraska and at the time I thought that was as far as I’d be able to take her but now here she is playing with the NBA!!”. Kerri’s story proves that you always strive to reach for more.
I asked Kerri what she most looking forward to the weekend of the game. She told me, “I have always wanted to play on a regular basketball team for a school but I never got the chance. This kind of opportunity was not even in my wildest dreams, so I would say I am most looking forward to being able to play with and on the same court as some of the greatest basketball players in the world. It will be an experience I will never forget”. For Kerri, Special Olympics has changed her life. It has allowed her to be involved with one of her passions in life, sports, while gaining so much more. In her own words Kerri believes “Special Olympics can help provide you with the confidence and sense of self-worth that will allow you to take hold, grasp and run towards the future with excitement and enthusiasm”.