Abby Tedley knew what do to.
Late in last week’s final home game, the Grade 5 student took a pass at the top of the key.
She took her trademark hop, tossed the ball up and got “nothing but net” as the ball swooshed into the basket.
It was another two points for Abby and her Victor Lauriston Lions but it meant a lot more to her teammates, the crowd and her entire school. The moment was marked on the school’s twitter account.
It was the end of the season for Abby, but it marked a beginning for so much more.
Abby has autism and when the crowd went wild, it provided an exclamation mark to a year where she’s become an inspiration to some and a friend to many more.
How Abby came to be on the team reads like fiction.
“We noticed that every time she had the chance, she was shooting baskets,” said Tracey Travis, who along with Carolyn Burton, form Abby’s Educational Assistant Support team.
“We looked at having her play last year but the schedule just didn’t work. She’s not on the team because she has autism, but because she’s really good for it,” Travis said. “She has a passion for it,” Burton added. “She absolutely loves it. Every recess she plays basketball spring, winter or fall.”
In order to maintain environmental stability, Abby plays only home games.
“It’s comfortable and familiar for her, “Bennett said.
“We didn’t really know what to expect,” said Travis. “We gave her the opportunity to succeed because she loves basketball. It’s been amazing.”
Support from her teammates and the entire school community has been phenomenal, Burton said.
During a game earlier in the year, supporters painted Abby’s uniform number 42 on their faces. Before the next game, Abby had painted her own face with the number.
Abby has attended the school since kindergarten and is well known for her smile and happy attitude.
“She can’t go down the hall without everyone high-fiving her and saying hello.
Vice-principal Scott Bacik said the entire school population is behind her.
“She has 300 fans,” he said.
At a recent ceremony to mark April as autism month, Abby was chosen to raise a flag. As she did so, the student body spontaneously broke into a chant to Abby, Abby.”
Both Travis and Burton credited the atmosphere at the school where Erin VanDeWiele is principal, as playing a key role.
“Inclusion is in the air here,” Bacik said.
“Tracey and I are both firm believers that if you give somebody the opportunity, just look at what they can do,” Burton said.
Victor Lauriston opponents for the most part have been really supportive as well, Travis said.
Fellow students Brooklyn Duquette and Madison Schatz said Abby is great teammate.
“It was really nice of them to give her a shot,” Madison said.
“She’s really good at defense too,” Brooklyn said. “If you tell her to stay with number 15, that’s what she does.”
Coach Tawnya Carruthers said Abby’s attitude helps the team as much as her physical skills.
“Her enthusiasm is contagious, whether she’s on the court or waiting for her turn. She’s a good shooter and she dribbles the ball well.”
As for Abby, she sums the situation up in a few sentences.
“I love basketball – I’m on the team,” she said.
“I’m a good basketball player. I make my shots.”