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Best Buddies

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A little more than 12 hours after a thrilling 51-50 victory over Central Bucks West, the Pennridge boys basketball team was back on the court Saturday afternoon, stretching, shooting and running through their regular drills.

But rather than taking on another Suburban One League foe, the Rams shared the hardwood with a group of youngsters, some as young as 5 and most with special needs, for a “Best Buddies” basketball clinic at the Upper Bucks YMCA in Richland Township.

With gentle encouragement, they coaxed even the shyest young player on to the court for two hours of instruction, teamwork and socialization, which is exactly what Laura Waite, the YMCA’s abilities coordinator, had in mind when she approached PHS Coach Dean Behrens with the idea a few months back.

“It’s awesome,” said Waite, a 2008 Pennridge High School graduate, as she watched the watching the players and the youngsters interact.

Pennridge senior Sean Yoder said giving up his free time on a Saturday afternoon to help kids have some fun while learning to play basketball was the least he could do.

“As high school athletes, we are in a position where kids look up to you,” said Yoder, who will attend the U.S. Naval Academy in the fall.

“When you get a chance to give back to community it’s special and worth it. That’s why we are here today. Just being here, spending time with the kids and seeing the smiles on their faces, that’s all that matters.”

Yoder spent a good portion of his time working with Brandon Hierholzer, who was reluctant at first to participate. But after the Pennridge players greeted him with hearty handshakes and words of welcome, the young man blended right in. He took about two dozens shots from the foul line before he made one, eliciting congratulations from Yoder.

“Looking good, man,” Yoder said.

When Waite, whose mother teaches at Pennridge North Middle School, approached coach Dean Behrens with the idea, the only question was finding a Saturday afternoon that didn’t conflict with a game.

Next month, Behrens and his team will spend some time with the high school’s Life Skills students.

“My guys wake up every day and can play any sport they want,” said Behrens, whose team is 15-2 and on an 11-game winning streak.

“Sometimes, we can take that for granted. The opportunity to work with kids who might not have the same physical gifts kind of puts things in perspective.”

Taking a break from working with two youngsters on their shooting skills, senior Jon Post said his teammates were probably getting as much out of the experience as the younger kids.

“It feels great to help out in the community,” said Post, who volunteered with the Special Olympics as part of his bar mitzvah. “It’s a humbling experience. We take for granted a lot of things.”


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