North Central College recognizes basketball volunteer's net worth
Along with water bottles and Rice Krispie treats, Megan Niklas delivers inspiration to the North Central College woman's basketball team.
Niklas, 39, works at the college and a Naperville grocery store, volunteers as team manager and -- in her spare time -- is a motivational speaker for the National Association for Down syndrome.
Saturday, North Central College honored Niklas' 15 years as team manager before a basketball game against the University of DuBuque.
"I never had a day like this. ... I did get a little embarrassed but I'm trying hard not to be embarrassed and the same thing with being emotional," the Naperville resident said.
Team members wore signs with Niklas' picture and cheered as she was recognized along with mother Jeanne and father Mel in front of an enthusiastic crowd that included former teachers. Proceeds from the game benefited Down syndrome charities.
"She's someone I love having around with the girls," coach Maggie McCloskey-Bax said. "It's a nice perspective for the team -- they love having her."
Niklas, a North Central alumna, attended Naperville Central High School, where she helped managed girls volleyball, soccer and basketball teams and got to know star player Candace Parker.
"I do love basketball," Niklas said. "I have Downs syndrome (and) this is a bit of a challenge, but I know I'm doing really good."
Retired Naperville Central adapted PE teacher Pat Adamatis, who attended the game, encouraged Niklas to get involved in team sports in high school.
"She tries really hard. She hated working out -- and we would make her -- and now she works out all the time," Adamatis said, smiling.
Niklas is a former Special Olympics competitor, finishing as a state swimming finalist in backstroke and freestyle categories in 2003 and 2004.
At North Central, she helps keep score during practice and writes inspirational messages before games, such as "Beat this team," and Play hard."
"She's really fun and special for the girls to have" as a manager, McCloskey-Bax said.
Niklas said her message for young adults with Down syndrome is simple: "I am more alike than different. Be nice ... and never give up."