ESCANABA, Mich. (WJMN) — After lunch, students filed into the Escanaba High School gymnasium to cheer on student-athletes that have not had the opportunity to be on an organized team.
The Eskymo Unified Basketball Team consists of members of the Mobuddies program, which is an organization aimed to stop bullying, on and off-campus.
“It started with a parent working with me and us working out to others to find out on how we can incorporate Mobuddies and unified sports teams, so we’ve gone six years now. Sports was integrated this year.”, Kris Aiken, Mobuddies Advisor, Escanaba High School.
Escanaba seniors have been coaching the Mobuddies team for the past few months, twice a week, and today was their time to shine in front of the entire school.
“Well this is an important thing because a lot of kids don’t get the chance to show their skills in a lot of sports, but today we got all of our kids here and their ready to showcase what they got,” said Josh Bruntjens, Senior, Escanaba High School.
“It’s making our school a happier place, less bullying, a lot more smiles and I don’t know, it’s a great organization,” said Ethan Silverstone, Senior, Escanaba High School.
“It just brings the community together and it really opens up people’s eyes to what goes on in other people’s lives,” said Silverstone.
“It’s really brought everyone a lot closer and been able to make people realize that differences don’t really matter,” said Grace Taylor, Senior, Escanaba High School.
Members of the Mobuddies basketball team live with daily challenges that make it difficult for them to succeed in sports, but this game proved that they can still ball.
“It felt like I am special like that people actually get what I’m feeling and with me being an ADHD, it really helps me a lot, especially because if I get unfocused with homework, Mobuddies will help me get it done,” said Daniel Groleau, Sophomore, Escanaba High School.
Students and faculty cheered on the players as they competed in this exhibition game. To some, it may just look like another basketball game, but to the players, it meant so much more.
“It’s been phenomenal and exciting. They’ve been hyped up all day,” said Kris Aiken.
“They’ve just been wearing their jerseys at school, it’s exciting. One of our student-athletes put it best is that ‘Mrs. Aiken, we weren’t good enough to make the regular teams in high school, but we were here to show that we have all the skills to still enjoy basketball and have everyone root for us instead of the other way around.”
Kris Aiken said that Hancock High School also has a similar program to the Mobuddies and maybe one day they will face-off in a real game.
“I saw that Hancock had a program on the news. Within a month ago, they did their’s (basketball game) and too bad we’re so far apart. It would be a great opportunity to play with each other, but who knows. I know there are 260 unified teams downstate and it’s big down there. They play each other and they even have a championship game. Who knows what this could bring. It doesn’t have to be basketball either. It can be badminton, bocce ball, volleyball, bowling, it can be anything, but we chose basketball since that’s big here,” said Aiken.
The winner of today’s game was the entire Escanaba High School student body.