Unified Hoops brings students together
By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Tolland - posted Fri., Mar. 1, 2013
The Unified Basketball team at Tolland High School has been hugely successful, due to the efforts of coaches Beth Regan and Amy Steed, as well as a corps of volunteers, who serve as partners with the special needs students.
THS senior Matthew Della Cambra has helped out a couple hours a week for the past four years, and said he gets excited when the players make baskets. “It's just a great program,” Della Cambra said. “I love helping out and giving back to the community any way I can. It's just fun to see these kids here every day. They're really a great group of people.”
Della Cambra said he helps teach some of the basketball fundamentals and skills, but for the most part, everyone already knows how to play, it's just helping them have that opportunity. “They already know what to do,” Della Cambra said. “It's just about the encouragement. All of these kids come together, and they actually make a very good team, too. They're quite talented.”
Della Cambra said volunteering runs in his family, and it was his older brother David who introduced him to the program. Della Cambra also takes part in the TOPS soccer program, as well as Boy Scouts and the National Honor Society.
“Matt exemplifies what Unified Sports is all about – teamwork, cooperation, and a sense of brother- and sister-hood. We're all here together,” said Regan, a coach for more than 20 years. “He's not a great athlete, but he's got great compassion – he's empathetic. It's not about him, but he gets a lot out of it.”
Regan said the athletes feel like “the average Tolland High School kid” when they play basketball, largely due to the volunteers like Della Cambra.
“He works well together with everybody,” said player Joey Oleson. “He tells people that they are doing a good job, and he likes to have fun. He's a very good guy.”
“He's very nice, and he's good at basketball. He's funny, too,” said Morgan Condry, a Unified Athlete and junior at THS. Condry said she likes shooting and passing the ball to her friends the most, and it’s just fun to practice.
Condry's mother, Sharon, said her daughter gets a lot of social skills from the program and she is becoming friends with all of the other students. “It's a great program,” Sharon said. “Being part of a team is very important. It's such a sense of pride, and without the volunteers, I don't think it would be doable. These kids do a lot to help out.”
Humble and helpful, Della Cambra said he gets as much as he gives. “It's just a fun feeling to give back,” he said. “That's the satisfaction of the job. It's not even really a job, it's just a fun thing to do with these guys, because they're all normal kids, they just want to play basketball like everyone else.”