Finley Hiebert is growing up right before our eyes. The 13-year-old now plays on the basketball team at Stonybrook Middle School.
For those unfamiliar with Finley’s story, he was born with Down Syndrome. He and his mother, Brittney Hiebert, have advocated for inclusion ever since.
In a game at Landmark Collegiate, coaches, players, and referees huddled and decided to allow Finley to shoot a basket. Not only does he score once, but he does so twice in a row.
“To watch the other team just sort of pause and let him dribble in and do his thing and take that shot. The whole crowd goes wild. The first game he played, there were tears in the crowd and just amazing responses from the other team and the parents,”
Brittney says that not only does it make her son feel included, but it also creates an impact on the community.
“Kids with Down Syndrome or different abilities can join in on something just as regular as the good old basketball game, and it changes their life. It changes not only Finley's life, but it changes their life too. They can go out in the world in a workplace, in the community, and they can see, ‘Oh, there's a guy with Down Syndrome or autism or whatever and be like I can help them out because I've experienced this already,’”
Hiebert thanks Finley’s teammates for their kindness and efforts to include him. To her, watching it is “unbelievable.”
“He learns he learns so much faster and so much better when it's a peer that's teaching him. Those boys on his team work so close and diligently with him, and they are so patient. It has been life-changing for him,” she says. “You can see him and how he glows and gets so excited when we say ‘It's basketball tonight.’ He gets up and runs and wants to do it,”
Hiebert adds that she has seen the progress the world is creating toward true inclusivity.
“It's really neat how the generation that he's in has changed from when I grew up. When I grew up, all those kinds of kids were just off to the side, in the part of the school that we never went to. Now, they're in all the classrooms, they're part of everything else. People have asked us too, ‘Why don't you put them in Special Olympics?’ Why would I when it's such a bigger impact of him being on the regular team with all.”
With files from Corny Rempel.
Watch Finley play basketball (video submitted):