To those that play with or against my brother.

I almost cried sitting in the bleachers at my old high school tonight.

The sound of old pop songs blaring through the speakers welcomed me back home along with lots of hugs and questions about school. I chatted politely with people as I impatiently waited to watch the JV boys game. I promised Kellan, my younger brother, I would make it to a basketball game over break, and it was finally happening.

His 2 minutes of fame finally rolled around, and I was again reminded of how much I love the sport of basketball and the area I grew up in. Kellan has always loved basketball, butΒ I wasn’t ever sure I would be able to see Kellan play in an actual game. Kellan has Down syndrome, and with no Special Olympics nearby, I always assumed that his basketball career would end just as soon as it started. I never thought I’d see him wear a Medicine Valley jersey let alone play during a high school basketball game. I believed his basketball career would consist of time spent with my siblings and me in the high school gym.Β I can’t tell you how many hours he spent running up and down the court those weekends, but I can tell you that basketball was (and still is) his passion. Watching him on the court today brings me more joy than you can imagine.

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That being said, I wanted to write this blog to really say thank you.

To Kellan’s teammates, thank you x100. Thank you for opening your arms and hearts to Kellan. Thank you for treating him with respect and accepting him. I have been out of school long enough that I don’t know all of you and you don’t all know me. That’s what makes this even more amazing- you’re loving Kellan even though you never knew my siblings and me. Kellan talks about practice and you boys more than you could ever imagine. The time he spends with you is his favorite part of the day. Thank you for being a support system. Thank you for letting him have time to shine. Thank you for always helping him when he needs it. He loves you so much; thanks for letting him truly be a part of a team.

To those that play against Kellan, simply saying ‘thank you’ will never be enough. You are absolutely amazing. As his big sister, nothing gives me more joy than to see him doing what he loves. I cannot put into words how much it means to me that you show him respect. You all play a huge role in helping his dream come true. Thank you for allowing him to shoot as many times as it takes to make a basket. Thank you for cheering just as loudly as the home crowd does when he makes a shot. Thank you for allowing him to occasionally foul and not getting upset by it. Thank you for accepting his hugs instead of high fives following the game. I have so much respect for all of you, and I want you to know that.

When I started this post, I mentioned the water works that threatened to break lose at the game tonight. As I sat in the stands, my eyes kept flickering back to the opposing team’s bench. You don’t normally see players cheering for their opposing team, but that’s exactly what was happening. Players from South Loup (the opposing team) were cheering louder and more animatedly for Kellan than some people that actually knew him; how incredible is that? These teenage boys who have never met Kellan were cheering him on and celebrating his success. Some even hugged him following the game. And this isn’t a one time thing; in fact, it happens nearly every time Kellan plays. The sportsmanship demonstrated by opposing teams is unbelievable. It’s something we can and should learn from.

I tear up every single time I see Kellan step on the court in a jersey. As he has continued to play, it’s become evident that basketball helps to bridge the gap between Kellan and others. It’s more than just a sport, and I am forever thankful that we live in an area full of teams that are supportive of Kellan and his desire to play.My only hope is that you boys understand how much of an impact you have on my brother. He is happiest when he’s playing basketball; thank you for allowing him to do so. My heart bursts hearing him excitedly talk about his games. You are all creating an environment of love and support that is helping Kellan grow. Win or lose, I hope you all walk off the court with a sense of satisfaction and happiness knowing how much your actions have meant. You all have my respect and love.

-RG

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24 thoughts on “To those that play with or against my brother.

  1. Judy

    Awesome!!! Curtis, Medicine Valley is a great town & school to raise a family. So thankful to read the love & support Kellen is receiving. God has a plan for him; God has a plan for each of those young men.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for your comment! Medicine Valley is an amazing school system; I’m proud to have gone there! Kellan loves all of his friends and teachers at school. We’re so lucky to live in the community that we do.

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  2. Kevin Burkhardt

    Regan, I have watched you all grow via social media and I often tell my wife how proud your parents must be of all of you. Your words not only express a gratitude for those people, they show the love and support that you, Kellan, Riley, and Kelcey have always had for each other.
    Much blessings to all of you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you so much for this article. It is totally what I needed to read today. You see we also live in a small town in Nebraska and have an 8 year old son with Down syndrome. We were not going to sign him up for 3rd grade basketball with his classmates, but the coach asked us if he would like to play since they were trying to get to 10 so they could scrimmage. I agreed, but with the first game coming up on Saturday, I have been really worried. He does not get the plays, and wont give up the ball once he gets it. Your article reminded me, that there is so much more to learn about basketball than running plays, dribbling, and putting the ball in the hoop. It is about sportsmanship, exercise, respect and most importantly inclusion and acceptance. Thank you!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Wow- thank you so much for that comment. When Kellan entered junior high, MV and the schools we play were able to set up a plan that allowed Kellan to play at home games for a couple of minutes. Now that he’s older, Kellan plays in JV games for 4 minutes which are added on to the game. Even though his points don’t get added to the score board, he absolutely LOVES playing and going to practice! My heart is so happy knowing that your son will get to experience the joy Kellan does. Seeing the respect and love shown on the court is always wonderful; I hope you have the same experience. πŸ™‚ Thank you again for reading and sharing!

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  4. John Hurlocker

    Thank you for submitting this article/blog, Regan. I needed to read something as important as this and it actually brought a few tears to my eyes. If only we could see good sportsmanship everywhere we went. Best wishes for continued success for your brother.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for your wonderful comment. This blog post was an important one for me to write, and I am completely blown away at the responses I’ve received. There are some truly amazing people in Southwest Nebraska.

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  5. Kelly Dockweiler

    Well said Regan!!! Kellan is a great guy and it isn’t hard to tell how much he loves basketball! It’s great to hear the good things about our youth and there are some really good ones out there! All Kellan knows is love and that’s because of the great family he’s a part of. πŸ’ž

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Kelly! Thanks for your kind comment. I have to agree- Kellan is pretty awesome! The MV boys are fantastic with him, and he really enjoys his time spent with them. I’m so grateful for the impact they have in his life.

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  6. Brady Henderson

    Awesome blog Regan!! I am not a very emotional person but this brought tears to my eyes. I am glad I get the opportunity to go to practice and play with Kellan! It’s not everyday someone gets a chance like this! Kellan brings joy to a lot of us at Medicine Valley and we wouldn’t know what o do with out him! Love seeing his smile on game days!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Brady, you are so sweet. Thank you for being so kind and respectful towards Kellan; you boys are all wonderful, and I hope you know that! Take care of your sister these next few weeks. Good luck on the rest of your season!

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  7. Wendy Henrichs

    Thanks for sharing this, Regan! As a former English teacher and basketball coach, I appreciate both the writing and the sentiments. I don’t know the Garey kids well, but I know from working with your dad these past few years on the NSAA board how proud he is of all of you- and rightfully so. Your love for each other shines through. You will make a great teacher!

    Liked by 1 person

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