On Tuesday March 31 UNH hosted the second annual Special Spirit game.
Despite a delay at opening doors due to a fire alarm, the two high school Special Olympic teams, the Pinkerton Astros and the Portsmouth Clippers, began their game in the Lundholm Gym at 6 p.m. sharp. The final score in a close game was 49 to 30 Clippers.
The two teams got the opportunity to play on the wildcat college court in a nearly full gymnasium.The stands were full of UNH athletes, supporters, friends, and family.
The UNH Dance and cheer teams were present to cheer on the two teams as the UNH band pumped up the crowd in the background.
Both sides of the stands were filled with fans that cheered enthusiastically as the game transpired.
Creator and founder of Special Spirit, Todd Borchers, was pleased with the turnout; he said the event was “the biggest it’s ever been. By two. Last year we had roughly two thousand people. This year I think we’re pushing three or four.”
Borchers, who has been coaching Special Olympics for 12 years, explained that the UNH organization Student Occupational Therapy Association (SOTA), has taken it to an entirely new level.
Last year was the first time Special Spirit came to UNH, and this year the Special Olympic athletes got to perform in front of an even bigger crowd.
“I wanted to give them the college experience. The court. The crowds. The cheerleaders. The halftime shows. The D1 experience. I’ve been doing this too long to not see them get to have that. I wanted my athletes to have this,” said Borchers.
The college experience is exactly what they got. During half time the UNH’s Sisters In Step performed, followed by a relay race, and a dunk contest in which members of the UNH basketball team showed off their dunking skills.
SOTA members walked up and down the stands sporting Home Depot aprons and collecting raffles from the crowd.
Vice president of SOTA, Alison Ray, described the event as successful. “We’ve made a lot of money so far. We are donating 400 dollars to each of the teams, all of which we’ve made through fundraising and donations as the event is free for all. The remaining money goes in a fund so that we can fund the event next year,” said Ray.
Among the supporters was football player Morgan Ellman.
“I’m here with the football team. We all wanted to come out and show our support,” Ellman said. “It’s great they get to come out here in front of everyone and just play some basketball.”
Bryan Rogers, head coach of the Portsmouth Clippers, described the excitement of his athletes. “It’s a ton of fun, just having them in the college atmosphere is so amazing for these guys,” said Rogers. “As soon as you say there’s going to be a game, one where they get to play on an actual college court, they just love it,” said Rogers.