SOUTH WINDSOR, Conn. --- With the catchphrase "Because Every Child Deserves A Shot" as a goal, UConn men's basketball coach Kevin Ollie opened his second Kevin's Kourt in the state on Friday, an inclusive basketball court geared toward athletes with disabilities.
The newest Kevin's Kourt is located at the South Windsor Community Center, and is the first inclusive court to be paired with an adjoining barrier-free playground. The first of the Kevin's Kourts opened last year at the Boys and Girls Club in Hartford, and plans call for two more openings this summer, in Waterbury and West Hartford.
"It's not about me, this takes a team of people," Ollie told the crowd Friday who braved the rainy conditions to be at the opening. "We accepted this challenge.Through ups and downs and whatever happens, we accepted this challenge and now look what we have here - it's a wonderful thing. This is a dream that I had, and to see it come to fruition is just wonderful."
The facility includes 10 stations on a 40' by 50' court created by Bankshot, which has pioneered inclusive basketball play structures based on total-mix diversity and universal design.The Kourts are a project of the Kevin Ollie Charity Classic, the coach's golf tournament, which teamed with the 21st Century Tolland Fund, the South Windsor Community Foundation, and more than a dozen sponsors to underwrite 100 percent of the cost.
"We're going to continue to do this, we're going to continue to build these courts," Ollie said. "With the two we've got going up, that will be a total of four and we have four national championships. We don't want to stop winning national championships and we don't want to stop this. This touches our youth."
Also partnering was the Ryan Martin Foundation & Hospital for Special Care Junior Wheelchair Basketball program. Martin, a professional wheelchair basketball athlete, was on hand at the ceremony.
"Kevin's Kourt celebrates inclusivity and the power of sports to unite people with differences," Martin said. "Every athlete has the right to play and compete together despite perceived limitations. That is what Kevin's Kourt is all about. I would love to see 50 of these built in Connecticut."
Ollie was initially inspired to build the courts by the situation of former UConn basketball teammate Steve Emt, who was paralyzed following an horrific motorcycle accident.
"Everybody knows Steve's story," Ollie said. "He was a great athlete who was disabled, but now he's probably one of the top (paralympic) athletes in the world. Just to see what proceeds can do to help them continue their athletic endeavors, that's what we're trying to accomplish. These courts allow everybody to play."