Drayton Valley celebrates golden moment
Published Saturday, February 26, 2011 7:12PM MST
Those who saw it happen say they misted up, and rubbed away goose bumps. On Friday night, a 16-year-old boy with Down Syndrome dazzled on the basketball court, while his school cheered him on.
Witnessing Eric Stitzenberger score three baskets was emotional for many because it was a moment that coaxed out the depth of his ability.
The story began when the coach, whose daughter has a disability, saw Eric around Drayton Valley and thought he deserved to be part of something bigger than himself.
"We have a special group of guys on our team and we wanted to give Eric an opportunity and bring him into the family we have on our basketball team," said Shane Dawson. "Eric is an inspiration to everyone in this school. He shows you can go through anything in life and still succeed."
At first, the teenager started as a team manager, filling up water bottles and helping out at practice.
But during the opening match of a weekend tournament, Frank Maddock High School encouraged him to take the next step – one that led onto the basketball court. People in the stands started chanting to put him in the game.
"Very loud, they were chanting my name pretty good," said Eric. "The whole school - I liked it."
Watching her son score three times in front of a supportive crowd was a lot for Sandra Stitzenberger.
"It was the biggest shock… trying to take someone like Eric on, you know, doesn't happen everyday," she said.
"He said, ‘this is the best day of my life.'"
With Files from Kevin Armstrong