Family is why community members Mollie Dettinger, Andy Gerke and Becky Evans came out to support the Tomah Special Olympics basketball team Sunday during its annual contests at Tomah High School.
For Mollie Dettinger, the motivation was her brother Matthew. He inspired her to get involved with Special Olympics by selling t-shirts at the game after he died six years ago.
Dettinger said she loves coming to the gymnasium and seeing the community support.
“It’s just nice to see everybody come out and having a good time,” she said. “It shows great support to our athletes.”
Andy Gerke agrees. He came out to support his son Jacob, who plays on the team of younger players. This was his second year on the team.
“I like the community support,” Andy Gerke said. “It’s just a nice time. Everybody is happy to be here seeing everybody participate.”
Becky Evans came out in support of her son James Sherman. The day means a lot to both the athletes and their families, Evans said.
“I am thrilled that our community ... has kind of come around, and it has grown and grown,” she said. “They’ve kept it going. We’ve had good volunteers and good community leaders, and the refs out there are community leaders. It just means a lot to parents and families ... we look forward to it every year.”
Courtney Byers agrees. She has enjoyed watching the event grow.
“It shows that we can all get together for a like cause ... everybody just comes together and supports everybody as a community,” she said. “I think a lot of people get involved, and it’s really nice to see that and the support that the players get. It’s really nice. You watch some of the athletes from when they were very small and then they just keep growing, and just to see them keep growing and how active they get and how involved they stay, it’s really nice to see that.”
Charlie O’Brien, Tomah High School band director, said it’s a fun afternoon and that he enjoys getting his band students involved.
“This event is one of the most entertaining and exciting and energizing events that our band plays at,” he said. “We’re always honored and humbled to support the Special Olympics and to play at an event of this magnitude and to support the athletes and the greater community.”
It brings the community together, O’Brien said.
“I think it’s phenomenal,” he said. “It gives an opportunity for these athletes to showcase their talents and for the band and the dance team to bring it all together and to make it an incredible afternoon.”