KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Western Michigan men’s basketball has seen a whole lot of newness these days: new coach, new recruits, new floor. But with Wednesday’s “practice” came a new appreciation for the sport they play.
Head coach Dwayne Stephens, his staff and his players hosted more than 20 children and adults with disabilities from the area — signing autographs, taking pictures and conducting drills to hone their skills.
“For me, it was a no-brainer. I definitely want our guys to help the community,” Stephens said. “It gives those guys a chance to experience something that our guys take for granted a lot of times and come out here, be on this court, playing basketball, just having some fun.”
Coordinating the event was the nonprofit Beautiful Lives Project, which works with sports teams, companies and organizations to create activities and break down isolation for those with disabilities.
For co-founder Bryce Weiler, WMU jumped at the opportunity to bring that experience, something he says many sports fans don’t understand below the surface.
“They just see their favorite players and coaches as someone who has success on the court or the field, or someone who might fail on the court or the field from time to time. But they don’t understand what they’re like as people and how they want to give back and help others,” Weiler explained.
To Stephens, it is even more rewarding sharing joy through the game and a mutual love for it.
“I think our guys are getting just as much back from these kids as we’re giving to them. Because just seeing their spirit, seeing how they interact with our guys, how much fun they’re having … that brings joy to me,” Stephens said.
Weiler said the Beautiful Lives Project is always looking for teams and companies to put on such events, including those involving dance and cheer. Those interested can visit the nonprofit’s website.