Thursday night’s Council Rock South/Pennsbury game is an SOL Featured Game, sponsored by the Council Rock South Booster Club. Check back for a complete game story.
Alexis Hofstaedter has had her share of memorable moments during the course of a stellar basketball career, but nothing, the Council Rock South junior insists, that compares to her experience while volunteering with her team at last Saturday’s Athletes Helping Athletes clinic at Parkwood Youth Organization in Northeast Philadelphia.
The Golden Hawks’ junior point guard was standing with her teammates when 19-year-old Matt – who just had taken part in the clinic for special needs young people – began thanking each of them for their time.
Rick Leonetti, founder and director of AHA, recounts the experience.
“The girls were like, ‘Matt, it was so great to be with you,’ and I turned to Matt and said, ‘How would you like to be an honorary captain at one of their games?’” Leonetti said. “He put his hands up to his eyes and teared up and said, ‘It would be an honor and a privilege.’ Then he said, ‘It would be like a dream come true.’
“When I looked back at Alexis and the girls she was standing with, tears welled up in each of their eyes, and you could see teardrops roll down their cheeks. They had to step away. They didn’t want Matt to see that it moved them so much. It was incredible.”
Incredible, according to Hofstaedter, hardly describes it.
“I just lost it,” she said. “You take things for granted, but when you see those kids – there’s so much more to life.
“It’s awesome. I would recommend it to anyone. It was the best experience I probably had in my life – even over winning a championship. Or beating (Rock) North last year – it was so much bigger. It was that powerful.”
For Hofstaedter, who will be taking her basketball talents to William and Mary, it was a life-changing experience.
“This is pretty much what I want to do,” she said. “It really inspired me.
“I had a little kid, and he was just adorable. I fell in love with him right away. Just knowing you’re doing something good for other people was so meaningful to me. I really want to do it.”
Hofstaedter wasn’t the only player who left the clinic a changed person. Sophomore Emily DeAngelis even followed up with an e-mail to Leonetti.
“She said she wants to volunteer and it doesn’t have to be basketball – it can be anything,” he said. “She said it changed her life, and she’s considering special education now.”
DeAngelis grew up going to camps, and since she was a freshman has volunteered at YMCA camps.
“It was great,” she said. “I saw a lot of the kids I knew from camp. It was an amazing opportunity to share my love of basketball with such a great group of kids.
“It was really nice to see when they couldn’t get the drills at first, they kept going at it. They had such perseverance. It wasn’t what you expect. You learn so much being with them.”
DeAngelis also pointed to Matt’s response when asked to be an honorary captain as a moment she will never forget.
“He said it would be a dream come true, and that was just phenomenal how good that felt,” she said. “I had goosebumps. How do you react in a situation like that? It was great.”
Although she was considering a career working with special needs children before Saturday’s clinic, DeAngelis admits the experience volunteering with AHA solidified it.
“Since I was a freshman, I’ve spent time around special needs kids, and it’s just phenomenal spending your days with them,” she said. “They’re such great kids.
“They really have an optimistic outlook on things. Nothing really gets them down.”
Saturday’s clinic allowed DeAngelis to cross paths with Bobby, a friend she’d grown up with at camps.
“I never knew him to be different,” she said. “He fit in with everyone, he was part of our camp setting.”
And it was that kind of easy acceptance that created a bond between the Rock South players and the special needs children at Saturday’s clinic.
Senior Rachel Jacob recounts her experience working with a very young child named Jason, who became frustrated when he kept missing his shots.
“He got so mad, and he would stop playing and would crawl down on the floor and start hysterically crying,” she said. “His mom came over, and I saw her help him.
“The next time he threw the ball, it hit me, and he thought it hurt me. He threw another tantrum. I said, ‘Do you want to dunk the basketball?’ He poked his hand off his one eye and said, ‘Yeah.’ I picked him up and said, ‘Let’s dunk the ball.’ He was dunking and dunking and dunking. It was overall a very amazing experience.”
Like DeAngelis, Jacob also had experience working with special needs children.
“Back in elementary school, they had a special ed program, and I would always volunteer to help them,” she said. “I always felt those kind of opportunities were very interesting, and I got a lot out of it.”
For Jacob, who is employed at Sesame Place, the opportunity to combine her passion for basketball and her love for children was especially gratifying.
“Basketball is part of who I am, and it’s honestly the best feeling ever to share what I love – my passion in life is helping children and seeing children grow,” she said. “Just to see them embrace the sport I love is so unique, and it makes me feel so good inside.
“I’m so happy I had the opportunity to experience that. It was one of the most remarkable experiences in high school, and I will probably never feel that way again in my life. It was irreplaceable the feeling I got that day.”
Although this was a first for the Golden Hawks, they are just one in a long line of teams that volunteer their time to run the AHA Saturday clinics. The Neshaminy girls’ team will be leading the clinic this Saturday.
“It was such a great day,” said Leonetti, who has high school teams lined up every Saturday in January and February. “I left there feeling so good just watching that. I can’t wait to go back this Saturday morning.”
While Leonetti is a fixture at the clinics, he has some eager volunteers waiting in the wings to join him.
“It was irreplaceable, and I can’t wait to go back,” DeAngelis said. “I’m sending an e-mail to the coordinators to see if I can go back and do it again.”
It’s the kind of response Leonetti sees regularly, and coach Monica Stolic acknowledged that it was a special experience.
“Just seeing the girls interact with the kids – I think it made them realize what they have and what other kids don’t have and how fortunate they are,” the Golden Hawks’ coach said. “They really responded well.”
Just the facts:
This year’s record: Council Rock South 5-0 SOL (10-0 overall), Pennsbury 2-3 SOL (4-6 overall)
Last year’s record: Council Rock South 19-8 (11-3 SOL), Pennsbury 7-12 (5-9 SOL)
Last meeting: Feb. 8, 2011 – Council Rock South 65, Pennsbury 44 (CR South: Alex Wheatley – 33 points, Alexis Hofstaedter – 9 points, Caitlin Jackson – 6 points; Pennsbury – Lindsay Bolger – 11 points, Sajanna Bethea – 10 points, Molly Phillips – 8 points, Kaitlin Kelly – 7 points)
Last game: Council Rock South 52, Council Rock North 49 OT (Alex Wheatley – 20 points, Caitlin Jackson – 10 points, Alexis Hofstaedter – 9 points)
Pennsbury 57, Harry S Tuman 26 (Sajanna Bethea – 13 points, Claire Halpin – 11 points, Kaitlin Kelly – 10 points, Jae Jackson – 8 points)
Council Rock South
#3 – Taylor Dillon (5-4, Soph.)
#11 – Courtney Brown (5-7, Jr.)
#14 – Alexis Hofstaedter (5-8, Jr.)
#21 – Alex Wheatley (6-3, Sr.)
#24 – Caitlin Jackson (5-9, Soph.)
The rest of the Golden Hawks:
#5 – Cara Barlow (5-5, Fr.)
#10 – Stephanie Thomas (5-11, Jr.)
#12 – Allison Taub (5-5, Fr.)
#15 – Rachael Braccia (5-8, Jr.)
#25 – Emily Rose DeAngelis (5-10, Soph.)
#32 – Taylor Hunt (5-7, Sr.)
#33 – Rachel Jacob (5-11, Sr.)
#1 – Jae Jackson (Jr.)
#5 – Carly Kovin (Jr.)
#10 – Catherine Silvernail (Jr.)
#13 – Kaitlin Kelly (Soph.)
#14 – Janay Molder (Jr.)
#21 – Alexa Lukas (Jr.)
#22 – Lori Blazejeweski (Sr.)
#23 – Lindsay Bolger (Jr.)
#24 – CJ Kruscavage (Jr.)
#25 – Claire Halpin (Sr.)
#32 – Kymberly Brewton (Sr.)
#34 – Amie Eppolito (Sr.)
#42 – Sajanna Bethea (Soph.)