Illinois College in Jacksonville has a long history of hosting the District Basketball Tournament. The event on Jan. 19 was a collaborative effort between student groups on campus, as well as student-athletes who volunteered their time.
The Student Athletic Advisory Committee (SAAC) was responsible for the set-up and tear-down, as well volunteering in roles such as time- and score-keepers. In all, more than 70 Illinois College students volunteered at the District G Basketball Tournament.
“Just as years in the past, this basketball tournament is a wonderful experience for all those involved,” said Sarah Phillips, an Illinois College athletics staff member and advisor for SAAC. “I know our student volunteers truly enjoy working this event. It is a blast watching the games and seeing the excitement of all of the athletes participating.”
In addition to volunteering at the tournament, members of Alpha Phi Omega National Service Fraternity made posters for all the Special Olympics teams competing at the tournament.
“I wanted to do the posters because I know how awesome it was, in high school and even now in college, to have my name on a poster or to see the team’s name,” said Ashley Roller, an Illinois College senior, President of SAAC and a APO member who has volunteered at the basketball tournament every year she’s been in college. “I wanted the athletes to have the same feeling when they are playing. I asked the (APO) members to help make the posters so that others could get involved.”
“I had no idea they were doing this,” said Darrin Burnett, Area Director of SOILL Sangamon/Area 17. “I was there hanging banners and doing some other set-up work the night before and ran into Ashley and the students. I was amazed at their generosity. It was 7 p.m. on a Saturday night. Ashley and her friends gave up part of a Saturday night to do this.” Burnett himself was a1993 graduate of Illinois College Alphi Phi Omega.
The posters were definitely a hit at the tournament. “People loved the posters,” said Phillips. “All day, people either came up to me or I overheard people saying how wonderful the posters looked and what a great idea it was. I think the teams really enjoyed them as well as I saw a number of the teams walk over to the wall at the end of the day to retrieve their poster to take home with them. Some athletes and teams also posed for pictures with their poster.”
Phillips said the SAAC will continue to assist in putting the tournament on in the future. “This will continue to be an annual event here at Illinois College.”
Roller echoed that sentiment. “I look forward to this every winter,” she said. “Watching the athletes compete and truly love the game and help each other – nothing is better to watch as an athlete!”
Special Olympics has been something Roller’s been involved with since she started at Illinois College and something she looks forward to continuing in the future. “I did not have a personal connection to the program before, but some of the athletes that play for the Chatham teams are friends of mine now and I have known them for a long time. The Jacksonville teams have also come and worked on skills with different teams at Illinois College.”