Special Rec Players Bring ‘A’ Game To All-Star Basketball Games


OAK LAWN, IL – On a late January night, players from the Park District’s special recreational basketball program gathered for media night. It was an opportunity for players to pose for their official trading card photos and lift basketballs for phantom jumps in preparation for this weekend’s Special Recreation All-Star Basketball Games.

The Oak Lawn Eagles are bringing their game to Oak Lawn Community High School, 9400 Southwest Highway on Saturday, January 22nd. The Eagles’ A, B, C and D teams will participate in four inter-team exhibition games. The doors of the OLCHS open at noon, with opening ceremonies at 12:30pm, with games scheduled for 1:15pm, 1:40pm, 2:30pm and 2:55pm

The effervescent Oak Lawn Pep Squad cheerleaders perform at 2:05 p.m. A split the pot raffle 15:20, there is a split the pot raffle. Oak Lawn Parks Special Recreation Supervisor Todd Mallo said it’s a day that athletes look forward to all year.

“The friendships are huge,” said Mallo. “We’re celebrating our 13th basketball day. These players have known each other since they were 8 and 9 years old and played on the Junior Jordans. Their families are friends.”

Anne and Dan Fritz organize the third-year games before the torch is passed to another parent. The Fritzes belong to the Special Recreation Athletic Support Association cooperative. SRASA is a separate parent organization from the park district that raises money to help families with additional expenses, purchase uniforms and equipment, and train for the Special Olympics Illinois games. Her son Ben takes part in the program.

“For Benjamin, this event brought out the performer in him,” Fritz said. “Give him the confidence to hoard in front of a big crowd. That confidence helps him in all aspects of his life.”

The park district’s special rec basketball teams attract players from Bridgeview, Burbank, Evergreen Park, Chicago Ridge, Palos Heights, Crestwood and Hometown. The ages of the participants range from high school to 40. Many of the players have been shooting baskets together since 2005.

The Eagles D-Team, made up of players still in high school, won their regional tournament and will travel to Illinois State University for the Special Olympics Illinois State Basketball Tournament in March.

Oak Lawn Eagles D Team Wins Regional

Oak Lawn Park District’s dedicated recreational program provides a steady stream of athletes to compete at the state level. Mallo is bringing with him an alpine skier and four snowshoe runners who qualified for next month’s Special Olympics Illinois Winter Games in Galena.

The Oak Lawn Eagles will split up their teams and go head-to-head in an inspiring afternoon of basketball and sportsmanship. While the teams will play in front of hundreds of family and friends, the rest of the city is invited to fill the house too.

Admission to the Special Recreation All-Star Basketball Games is free, but donations will be accepted at the door. SRASA is giving away a large-screen television. There will also be plenty of Basketball Day loot items for sale.

Oak Lawn Bank & Trust is a major sponsor and donor of this event along with All Saints Lutheran Church in Orland Park and PepsiCo EnAble. Concessions are offered with pizza donated by Palermo’s and hot dogs by Whittingham’s Meats in Alsip.