A big thank you to Ryan for sharing his Y story with us!

Kellen and I had always known of Special Olympics and youth involvement through some of our friends Niko Medeiros, Bryan Swanson, and Parker Davis, but hadn’t thought about getting involved until we were faced with our Senior Project. When our original plan fell through, we turned to Kendell Lincoln to continue her project. Looking back, we are both so glad that we got involved in Special Olympics, it was truly an experience neither of us will forget. To be able to gather over 25 athletes of the Missoula YMCA Otters team and bring them together with the 30 plus student volunteers from our school for a day of basketball fun was incredible. The coolest part was meeting all the athletes and seeing their faces as we introduced the entire Grizzly Men’s Basketball team to sign autographs.

We were very excited to be able to have as many volunteers as we did. It not only helped with the smooth transition in between activities, but allowed everyone to get to know each other while having a good time. There were many moments I will never forget, including the “oohs” and “ahhs” everyone made when the Griz players were throwing alley oops to each other, or my personal favorite, when Gary hit a last second buzzer beater in the last scrimmage of the day. Sports, and more specifically basketball, mean so much to these athletes, and I had no idea how much until Bella told me and my mom, “I don’t know what I would do without basketball.” For me basketball has always been a place to compete and have fun with my friends which is the same with these athletes, but as my time in basketball is winding down, it makes me wonder what I will do without high school basketball next year. That is why I am so grateful for the YMCA’s help to give Kellen and I the opportunity to work with such an amazing group of people.