By Mrinal Gokhale
The weekend of Sat, Feb. 11 and Feb. 12 was a busy one at Vincent High School in Milwaukee. More than 700 Special Olympics athletes, ranging from 8 to 70 years old, competed in the two day Brandon Spewer Basketball Classic Tournament.
A total of 67 teams played, with Saturday’s games going from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday going from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
For 12 consecutive years, this tournament has honored the legacy of Brandon Spewer, a high performing Special Olympics athlete from Milwaukee, who was shot and killed at a bus stop at the young age of 22. “Brandon was one of our best athletes and served as a mentor to other athletes. His family usually attends every year,” said Erin O’Brien, Milwaukee Recreation Department Site Coordinator.
The Special Olympics is a nonprofit organization that allows individuals ages 8 and older with intellectual disabilities to compete in many sports.
The Milwaukee Recreation Department’s Special Olympics program recruits athletes from schools and community based organizations, organizing teams based on skill level.
“All these teams are competing in the regionals competition, but need to play at least two games in this tournament to qualify,” said Therese Whitty supervisor of Milwaukee Publics Schools Recreation.
Teams from Milwaukee, Washington and Ozaukee counties participate in this yearly tournament. Some athletes are in school, while others are out of school or part of an agency that works with Special Olympics of Wisconsin.
The tournament is hosted in order to give the many teams their qualifying two scrimmage games to play in the March regional competition.
Winning teams played winning teams while losing teams played losing teams in the second round.
The first, second and third place winners of regionals make it into the state competition.
The Milwaukee Recreation Department is a Milwaukee Public Schools department established in 1911.
The Special Olympics of Wisconsin is the statewide chapter, and the Milwaukee Recreation Department operates Team Milwaukee Special Olympics, with supervisors for both the schools and community agency based programs.
Visit milwaukeerecreation.net for more information.