Triangle teen with Down syndrome knocks down 3-pointer at Wolfpack game

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Jason Frederick loves to play sports, in particular, basketball.

Jason Frederick loves to play sports, in particular, basketball.

"N.C. State," Frederick responded to a question about his favorite team, even making the team's hand gesture.

The 16-year old plays with the Spirit League of North Carolina, which is for people with special needs. Fredrick has Down syndrome and has been competing with the Spirit League for the past three years.

It was only recently that the Spirit League began playing at halftime for some of the Triangle's college teams.



In December, they took the court at an N.C. State game, where Frederick sunk a three-pointer from the top of the key. The basket drew a dance from Frederick and a big response from the crowd.

Video of Frederick's shot and ensuing dance was posted online, and it went viral.

While basketball is a key component of the Spirit League, it wasn't necessarily the main idea when Laura Meshwork and her fiance Michael Schoor created it about five years ago.

"My daughter who has special needs, she's on the autism spectrum, did not know anybody when we moved to the Triangle area, and we were trying to meet kids so she can have a date for the prom," said Meshwork, who said they would have considered it a success if they had gotten even 25 people to participate.

They first came up with the idea in 2010, but didn't put it into action until they moved to the Triangle in 2014.

Now, they have 150 people, with sign-ups typically filling out immediately. For her part, Meshwork's daughter has blossomed into a social butterfly, going to eight different proms as her social calendar has filled up.

"One of the things we're always looking for in Spirit League is acceptance," said Schoor.

Players are 12 years and older, with no age limit. Schoor notes the majority of participants are teens and young adults, adding that volunteers and coaches treat players in a similar fashion to what you'd find in any gym.

"With that mindset, you're really asking them to achieve things that they know deep down that they want to achieve," Schoor said.

The Spirit League of North Carolina is a private-public partnership with Wake Forest and Apex, as the group works to become a 501 (c) (3) non-profit.

On Feb. 16, they will play at halftime of the N.C. State-Duke game at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Spirit League rotates who participates in halftime performances to ensure everybody has the opportunity to make a special memory.

"We feel there's many, many more great moments and opportunities to share for these athletes," said Schoor.
Related Topics:
sportsdown syndromespecial needs childrenbasketballRaleigh
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