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Skyline Shooting Stars Shine During Recent Game

Members of the Shooting Stars basketball team, along with the Skyline mascot, at the recent game against Eastlake.

The band played, the crowd applauded, cheerleaders encouraged and, at the center of all the excitement, the Skyline High School Shooting Stars basketball team members took to the court. That was the scene recently when the Shooting Stars played the Eastlake High School Unified Basketball team, in a game that pairs three students with disabilities with two general education students.  

“I feel this game may have been one of the great highlights of the year, not only for our students participating in the game but the entire community who support them during the game,” said Coach Mathew Taylor, who is also a graduation specialist at Skyline. “The band, cheer, students (over 1,000), parents and community members – not only did the SHS community come out in full force, but Eastlake High School was well represented and the shared joy and encouragement everyone in the gym showed this evening was truly memorable.” Taylor also thanked ASB student and volunteer with Athletes for Kids, Maddie Louks, who was instrumental in helping to organize the event. 

This year’s game, which was held in late May, had been on pause during the pandemic, so the opportunity to get back together in person was appreciated by players, families and community members alike. 

It’s a phenomenal experience, parent Leslie Lewis said. “I love the pure celebratory experience in which the students all feel just overjoyed and so confident and supported.  I love that everyone is included equally,” Lewis said. “I love that it's about having fun and doing your best and, yes, the thrill of making a basket, but the overall achievement is good sportsmanship and cheering for each other and not necessarily about winning.  I love that the adults are just as impacted as the students.  It is rewarding for all.” 

She said her favorite moments were watching her student in “pure joy,” leaping up to run onto the court when her name was announced during the introductions, her engagement in the game and even the high school personal trainer passing her cups of water. “The fact that she hustled the entire game, and had a huge smile on for the duration, is evidence of how much the experience meant to her,” Lewis added. 

Parents of players said that the community support and the volunteer efforts – from the ASB students to the staff members, the school mascots, the band and the cheerleaders – combined to create a thrilling, enthusiastic atmosphere. “It was a very large effort that resulted in giving the students a night in which they really could shine and have a wonderful experience,” Lewis said. “The end result is young people brimming with happiness and hope and confidence.  It really is what I as a parent want for my daughter, and it was heartwarming to experience alongside her.” 

Parent Vicky Kunold said that her son, Stuart, became part of the Shooting Stars team after they found out about it through the Learning Resource Center II (LRCII) program at Skyline High School in about 2017. Highlights for the Kunold family included the warm-ups, pictures with fans, basketball jerseys, National Anthem and player introductions.  

“The obvious and shining difference is ALL the athletes/players get to shoot and make a bucket during the game.  And each player will continue to receive the ball (whether by their own teammates or the opposing team) until they make a basket.  It’s a shining example of teamwork by both Shooting Star teams,” Kunold said. “And, those kiddos who are physically unable to run up and down the court are not forgotten, they participate in the cheering squads – bringing more energy to the game. Stuart definitely looks forward to his Shooting Star Friday night games.  He loves to don his jersey and score ‘nothing but net.’” 

Parent Alisa Chan also said the program, the volunteers and the community support of the Shooting Stars players are “extraordinary.” 

“It presents a very rare opportunity for our LRCII student to become part of the action. Our daughter Kaela was so excited to get out on the basketball court as well as join the cheerleaders at the sidelines, receiving support and encouragement from everyone,” Chan said. “It is one of the only opportunities where she can represent her school, wearing the Skyline uniform. The event builds pride, confidence and belonging within the LRC students.” 

The most magical moment for her was seeing Kaela score a basket during the game. 

“The overwhelming support from the community and student peers was unbelievably amazing and meant everything to the participants and families,” Chan said. “As an LRCII parent, seeing our kids in school uniforms displaying their talents and being cheered by the school cheerleaders, band, dance team, mascot and a huge group of an exciting high school crowd was heartfelt and unforgettable. Preparation for the event involved a lot of basketball practice in the weeks leading up to the game, which also built even more teamwork and camaraderie among all the students and teachers.” 

If you missed out on this game, stay tuned for next year, when the Shooting Stars will head back to the court, accompanied by the joyful sounds of the community’s cheers and support.