Glendale High School was kept busy Saturday.
Hundreds of fans, volunteers and athletes passed through the school during Tillsonburg Special Olympics annual yearend basketball tournament.
“Everybody loves coming to the tournament. We keep it fun and we give out prizes, give medals and we make a big deal out of it,” tournament co-convenor Laverne Sinden said. “The feedback from the coaches is they love coming each year.”
The one-day event featured eight teams split between two divisions - a ‘D’ division and ‘D’ recreation division - running from 9 a.m. to the closing ceremonies at 5 p.m.
The ‘D’ division had teams from Tillsonburg, St. Thomas, Sarnia and La Salle, while Cambridge, Tillsonburg, Sarnia and St. Thomas were teams in the ‘D’ recreation division.
The tournament serves as an end to the Special Olympics basketball season in the region. It lets teams compete one last time before focusing on the next athletic season.
“This is one of the winter sports and it’s a way to wrap up the season instead of a practice with your own team,” Sinden said. “The communities that come are fairly equal and there’s no big city teams. This is a fun tournament and everyone goes home with something.”
The tournament is in its 13th year and began when Special Olympics reached out to see if the Tillsonburg chapter would be interested in running a tournament, Sinden said.
“There weren’t a lot at that time and we said yes and it’s been great ever since,” he added.
He said planning typically begins in late-December or early-January, with funds being raised to pay for the school rental, getting supplies and having teams commit. Local sponsors and organizations also help supply food for the athletes during the day.
“It really starts running itself. It’s the same volunteers, the same teams and we just raise the money,” Sinden said. “Everyone really looks forward to it.”
Roughly 20 volunteers help out throughout the day, while the more than 100 athletes worry about competing and having fun.
“The smiling faces is what it’s all about,” Sinden said. “Everyone has a great time.”