Nobody could wipe the smile off Kasey Galik's face last Friday afternoon. It was the adapted PE teacher at Carmel Valley and Earl Warren Middle School's fourth annual basketball tournament, and the Carmel Valley gym was rockin'.
Adapted PE teams from Torrey Pines High, Carmel Valley, Earl Warren, Diegueno and Oak Crest Middle Schools played games in front of a full crowd of fans. In between going nuts for songs such as Miley Cyrus' "Party in the USA," the fans cheered the players' every basket, pass and steal prompting endless streams of smiles and high-fives.
"It makes them feel special, like the leader on campus," Galik said of the players. "They are the star athletes of the day."
Friends and family couldn't help but applaud the enthusiastic effort of the players, and some players seemed surprised that all that cheering was just for them.
"It's just a moving experience for everyone involved," Galik said.
In many of the games, the athletes had their "buddies" right with them, some even holding hands as they ran down the court together. The San Dieguito Union High School District's buddies are what Galik calls friends to students with challenges — the regular education students help out their friends during adapted PE classes at school.
In the tournament, buddies and teachers guided players to the basket. A smaller basket was set up underneath the big hoop and players like Earl Warren's Olivia Yureta took the opportunity to emphatically dunk the ball.
"It's really special because everyone gets a chance to have fun," said Carmel Valley seventh grader Carolyn Lee, who became a buddy for the first time this year. "It seems like everyone's really enjoying it. It really puts a smile on your face."
At the end of two hours worth of match-ups, every player was a winner, getting a medal for their accomplishments.
Doran Elihu, a 13-year-old Earl Warren student, had a huge smile as he played on the court, one that grew even bigger once he had his new medal around his neck.
"He loves it," said his seventh grade buddy Amanda Stroiman, before the pair walked off holding hands.