Jayhawks in the Community: W. Hoops Visits Cottonwood

Nov. 5, 2012

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LAWRENCE, Kan. – One day after claiming an 88-43 win over Fort Hays State in its final exhibition game, several members of the Kansas women’s basketball team spent Monday afternoon at Cottonwood, Inc., interacting and learning the occupational crafts from individuals with development disabilities.

In a series of competitions, the Jayhawks were paired with their loyal supporters. The contests ranged from packing races to basketball skills. Afterwards, each member of the KU team introduced themselves and then the student-athletes followed with some ball-handling skills and an autograph signing.

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Smiles and laughs were abundant, but not just from the individuals at Cottonwood.

“It was a blast,” senior Monica Engelman said about the event. “It was awesome and I had a lot of fun. We have a lot of big supporters out here and they love coming to our games, so I think it is important that we reach out to them as well.”

Sophomore Natalie Knight agreed.

“It was a great experience for me personally,” Knight said. “I was not out here last year and it was just a good experience for me to get out here and try something new.”

In addition to a fun time, Engelman also values her gifts and understands the importance of sharing with others.

“We are busy and it is very easy to get wrapped up in yourself and in what you are doing, but you need to have a good balance by reaching out to other people,” Engelman said.

Head coach Bonnie Henrickson has enjoyed her team’s association with the individuals at Cottonwood during her tenure at Kansas.

“We have a great relationship with Cottonwood and with Special Olympics,” Henrickson said. “This gives an opportunity to come out and see where they work and all the great work that they do, which in turn gives us a chance to thank them for coming to all of our games.

“(Our team) enjoys this and they all do, it is a chance for us to give back. To see how much it means to the people that are here, that matters to our kids and it’s real important to them.”

Cottonwood, Inc., is a not-for-profit organization that was established in 1972 to provide services to individuals with developmental disabilities. Over the years, Cottonwood has earned a reputation for quality services and care as a community service provider. The roots of Cottonwood were planted in September 1962 when the Douglas County Association for Retarded Citizens developed a work-activity program for adults with mental retardation in the Lawrence area.

“Cottonwood is a wonderful organization and it provides people with developmental disabilities the opportunity to basically live a normal life and be a productive member of our society,” said Harry Gibson, President of the Cottonwood Foundation Board of Trustees. “It means the world (to these individuals) and 95 percent of them are loyal Jayhawks. They just love having the opportunity to interact with the student-athletes and coaches.”

Don’t worry, the Jayhawks loved it too.

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