“If I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”
This was the opening motto of the 2018 Ole Miss Special Olympics, where people from all over the state competed in basketball-related activities.
Volunteers from the community and university gathered in the Turner Center to support athletes with developmental disabilities. Michael Dupper, a health, exercise science and recreation management assistant professor, has been in charge of the event for almost 40 years and said the event is always a success.
“This year, we have around 300 participants,” Dupper said. “We have full-court basketball, three-versus-three basketball and basketball skills for the participants.”
Dupper said he couldn’t have done the event without the student volunteers who help him each year. He always looks forward to hearing stories from the volunteers about what they’ve learned or how they enjoyed giving back to the community.
Devante Yates, a senior exercise science major from West Point, served as the coordinator for the event for his second year and said he loves getting to know people who are different from him. Yates said he soon realized that the participants “weren’t any different from anyone else” and that they just wanted to have fun.
“I want to show the world that people with disabilities deserve to have a normal life,” Yates said. “I encourage students to get involved in the community with other people and step outside your comfort zone.”
Ben Mangum, a Special Olympics athlete and member of the Mississippi Special Olympics Board of Directors, comes to Ole Miss every year to participate in the event. He said he loves playing every sport, but basketball is his favorite sport to play.
“I love to come to make new friends and meet new people,” Mangum said. “Ole Miss is a good place to be. There’s a lot of good people and a good (basketball court).”
Mangum said he always enjoys playing with students from Oxford High School, who come every year to the event. Special education teacher Rose Hickey said she’s been bringing students for 10 years.
“It’s so rewarding,” Hickey said. “At the end of the day, you watch these kids have so much fun.”
She also said that the Oxford High School girls’ basketball team comes with the students each year to encourage them and cheer them on.
Oxford High School basketball player Zharia Metcalf enjoys helping with the event so much that this was her second year to come and encourage the players when they make a basket.
“It’s fun because we get to support them and see how excited they are,” Metcalf said. “It’s exciting to see the participants win, and we appreciate getting to support them.”
Oxford High School senior Devin Jones said he has been playing in the Special Olympics for a long time and he always likes coming to Ole Miss to get away from the classroom.
“I always love coming to shoot basketball and make a lot of points,” Jones said.
Jordan Potts, a junior exercise science major, was responsible for warming the players up and making the ribbons to hand out to the winners. Potts said she enjoyed the event so much that she plans on volunteering next year.
“It was so awesome to see how much happiness comes from people playing basketball together,” Potts said. “This is such a great opportunity for Ole Miss to give back to the community, and I wish Ole Miss should do more things like this.”