It was a stellar season for Shaw Middle School's seventh grade B team. The boys are undefeated, thanks to a lot of practice, hard work and team spirit - magnified by one player, in particular.
"Go Ben, go! Take a shot, take a shot!" they yell from the other end of the court. Ben Kohlman is the first basketball player in the school's history with Down syndrome.
Ben loves this sport almost as much as he adores his friends. You will never see him on the court without a smile on his face. "They say, 'Good job, Ben!' he shares with a grin.
Ben's teammates have really taken him in. They work together to teach him drills, plays and zone defense. Ben, in return, has taught them a few things as well. "He brings inspiration, because he teaches us that it's not just about winning or losing; it's about enjoying the sport," explains teammate Parker Gibbons.
Coach Brian Gibbons is Ben's Special Ed Life Skills teacher. He works hard to integrate his students in the general classroom, but Ben is the first special needs student to ask him to be part of the basketball team. He kept asking and asking. Coach Gibbons agreed to let him be the team manager, but that was not enough for Ben. "He consistently kept asking, 'Can I play? Can I play?' We'll try and then I said, ‘You don't have a uniform.' So, he pestered me for a uniform and we gave him a uniform."
Since then, Coach Gibbons has made it a point to get Ben in as many games as possible - even just for a minute or two. Every time he comes off the bench, the crowd roars! "We love Ben! We love Ben! We love Ben!"
Ben has made a basket in every game he has played. During Ben's last home game at Shaw Middle School, he did it again! The best part? Even his opponents cheered him on!
Ben is proof that one person can have a huge impact on many people and his story of determination will never be forgotten. Just last week, the school surprised Ben and his family with an assembly in his honor - where they retired his jerseys. What a way to end the season! While closing it out 6-0 is a huge victory, the boys say just knowing Ben means they have won a whole lot more.
Written by Kristen Remington