By Amanda Church (Easton Tigers)
Wheaton College Woman’s Basketball Team coached by Melissa Hodgdon has been involved in helping Attleboro based Special Olympics Massachusetts team, Heller’s Angels, for almost 4 years. Since 2009, their relationship has grown very strong. Melissa and her team help volunteer at Heller’s Angels basketball practices. In the fall, they also attended their flag football and soccer practices. Wheaton’s Woman’s Basketball team has also helped out with two of Special Olympics biggest fundraisers, and they have pizza parties with them to promote inclusion, fun and social acceptance.
The relationship goes both ways. During Wheaton’s home games, the Heller’s Angels program gets an opportunity to scrimmage each other during half time. This is awesome because it shows the spectators the relationship that Wheaton has with Special Olympics. We asked Coach Hodgdon what the team enjoys most about volunteering.
Her response was, “They love getting to know the athletes on the Heller’s Angels team as people. Learning about what they like to do, sharing stories with them, and teaching one another life lessons on and off the court.” She also said, “I see myself and our team grow after each time we meet with them.”
Hodgdon and the team say that the experiences they have had with the Special Olympics Massachusetts Heller’s Angels program has been fun. Sometimes college basketball, college academics and campus life can be stressful. But when they are with Heller’s Angels, it provides them a stress free environment.
We asked Coach Hodgdon to share her favorite Special Olympics moment with us. She said, “Every time we get together, it is special. One of our games got cancelled, and Heller’s Angels were supposed to play during half time but unfortunately that was going to be cancelled too. But then one of my students Gabbie DePalo said, ‘Coach, why don’t we play with Heller’s Angels ourselves?'”
Coach Hodgdon thought was a great idea. They also shared their traditional “fired up dance circle.”
“I will never forget it,” said Hodgdon. “I went from frustrated about the cancellation to having a better day than I would have had if we had the game and won it.”
Special Olympics MA would like to thank Coach Hodgdon and Wheaton College for dedicating so much of their time to one of our local programs. It is partnerships like this and volunteers like these girls that make us so successful.