Diversity message part of basketball game at Grayslake North
An entertaining overtime basketball game between special-needs students was part of a message about diversity and inclusiveness delivered Friday at Grayslake North High School.
Roughly 1,500 students and others packed the stands for the contest between basketball Special Olympians from Grayslake North and Central and students who have graduated from Gurnee's Warren Township High School, but remain there in a transition program as they work toward independence before turning 22.
Among those in attendance was Jenny Simpson, a Special Recreation Services of Northern Lake County program supervisor for the Round Lake Area Park District. She said she hopes other Lake County high schools mimic the interscholastic game between the Grayslake and Warren special-needs students that began in 2016.
"This is their chance to shine," Simpson said. "They should have the same sort of high school experience that anybody else has."
Warren social worker Beth Eberline, who assisted on the bench, said the Blue Devils were excited to participate in Friday morning's game for the second consecutive year.
"We would like to be invited back every year," Eberline said. "Hopefully, that'll be the case."
Cheerleaders, a dance team, pep band and other trappings expected in a high school basketball game were part of Friday's event. Grayslake's Bradley "The Mailman" Bohlman won it with two baskets in a 1-minute overtime the crowd demanded after it briefly appeared the game would be called a tie after four quarters.
"I noticed my team was struggling a little bit, so I came back and helped them," Bohlman said after his team's 26-22 win. "Whenever my team is struggling, the Mailman will always be there to save them."
Grayslake's Jesse Schopen said Bohlman is a smart player who communicates well on the court.
"He's awesome," Schopen said. "He plays hard. He knows what to do."
Standing at center court at halftime, Grayslake North student council President Stephanie Johnson spoke to the crowd about the need for inclusiveness and celebrating diversity. With some players in a circle holding a multicolored paper chain near her, Johnson said words can be harmful and that some students have "felt unwelcome lately."
"What someone may think is funny or harmless may really hurt someone else or make them feel like people don't want them here," Johnson said. "We can't do that to each other. This (basketball game), right here, and this assembly is who we are. Not that ugly stuff."
Similar to last year, the fans and players danced on the court after the game. In addition, retiring Grayslake High School District 127 Superintendent Catherine Finger received flowers as part of a postgame recognition for her.
Grayslake North student activities director Molly Tomlinson said she believes there is enough administrative support for the special-needs game to return for 2018.
"We celebrated diversity today," Tomlinson said, "and it was wonderful."