Combining the vision of Concord senior Riley Cornett with the help of mother Becky and event coordinators Jessica Krug and Ebony Brown, students of Concord and Batesville came together to partake in a Special Olympics event in the Cleburne County school’s gymnasium.
“I have worked in the school setting as an occupational therapist approximately eight years,” said Krug. “Many of the students I worked with at the time actively participated in Area 1 Special Olympics. It was there that I fell in love with the program and all that it stood for. It wasn’t until I moved back to the Batesville area that I heard about the unified programs. Ebony Brown, the Area 16 Director/Coordinator has done an excellent job of promoting the unified events within our area.
A class assignment for Riley Cornett opened the door for this great cause, as he explained the benefits of what having such an event could have on a student. “Mrs. Cornett’s son Riley had pondered the idea of creating a unified team and had recruited several of the senior basketball players to join him in the endeavor.” Those players included classmates Hunter Hartwick, Kaleah Davis, and Kendall White.
“I was able to get them in touch with the field rep for our area Theresa Book,” added Krug. “It was then that that they asked if I thought the students at Concord would be open to the idea of starting a unified basketball program. I absolutely loved the idea and told them it never hurts to ask. Following the presentation to our Special Olympic athletes and they agreed unanimously.”
The entire Concord student body showed their full support for both teams, erupting in celebration with each made basket. “It was an inspiring process to watch, as one student’s idea spread and ultimately led to an event which I fell emotionally moved an entire campus. I have watched students who rarely interacted prior to this program, become a team. Today was a rewarding day for all involved.”
With the establishment set by Cornett, Hartwick, Davis, and White, Krug believes that others will step up and get on board with the cause. “These seniors broke ground and laid the foundation for which other students can now build upon. I also hope this paves the way for other high school students to step up and find ways they can leave the campus better than they found it. All it takes is one idea and one brave soul to get the ball rolling.”
The Batesville Pioneer team won the three-quarter matchup, but fun was had all around and those participating and involved with putting together the game helped prove that sports can unify individuals from all sorts of cultures and backgrounds, bringing together two local communities who care deeply about their kids.
Following are the rosters of both teams:
Concord: Johnny Dixon, Corbin Cooper, Travis Weaver, Mason Lafferty, Sienna Morris, Rollie Gillette, Grace Duncan, Hunter Thomas, Riley Cornett, Hunter Hartwick, Kaleah Davis, Kendall White. Batesville: Cameron Bandy, Amber Mason, Maxx Briggs, Aaron Conger, Sam Ferguson, Rubin Alaniz, Hudson Reed, Noah Barber, Jakob Collins, BJ Sanchez.