by ALEXA APPIGNANI
I’m sure most of the students and community have heard about Basketball Pals. Basketball Pals is a program that is run through the Monroe Township Recreation Department whose focus is to teach basketball skills to special needs children. This program encourages volunteers to come to the Rec Center once a week on Sundays in October and November to teach the children the basic skills of basketball. If you need to fulfill community service hours, this is a great way to do it.
Some people might think that you need to know the sport to participate. However, the truth is that anyone who wants to participate can. There are many different tasks and jobs that one can do to help out as a Pal. The reason I got involved with Basketball Pals was because I like to work with younger children, and this was a way to do that while obtaining community service hours for the senior option program. I also thought it would just be a great opportunity and chance to learn from these children.
As I walked into the gym on the first day, I didn’t really know what to expect. I saw a lot of my friends who had also volunteered, and we were a little apprehensive. I expected a lot of difficulty in teaching the children because I knew it required a great deal of focus and attention. In reality, the experience turned out to be a lot of fun. As I got to know the children on a personal level, I learned so much from them. Teaching required patience and understanding, and I learned that they had great determination in trying to perfect their new skills. Along with this strong will was a positive attitude. Just because they have special needs does not make them much different from other children I have taught. They all would get so excited whenever they made a basket, and it warmed my heart.
The adult volunteers and parents also taught me a few things. They taught me that some children needed to be treated a little bit differently. For some of the children, loud noises would make them nervous, so we became more aware of our noise level. I admired the adults and volunteers because they deal with this on a daily basis and, although it must be hard, I could see and feel the love they had for these children.
I would encourage anyone to join Basketball Pals. I not only learned about the children, but I also learned a lot about myself. If basketball isn’t for you, there are three other sports available: Buddy Ball (baseball), Kings and Queens Bowling, and Track Stars. To learn more about these sports or to get involved yourself, you can contact Su Reiser at Monroespecialsports@gmail.com or phone 732-792-7827. You can also go to the Monroe Rec website and go to the special needs link.