Waukesha Special Needs Athlete Benched over Paperwork
WAUKESHA -- "I was obsessed playing with the Rockets," says Shaq Gilbert, 19 of Waukesha.
Gilbert's foster mother, Maggie Walters, broke the news to Gilbert, a point guard from the Waukesha Rockets basketball team, that he'll be benched for the Special Olympics tournament this month.
"It sounds so dumb that I am crying about a basketball game, but it's really about a kid," explains Walters.
Gilbert is a foster child with developmental disabilities and came to live with Walters in 2011. He began playing basketball with Special Olympics before moving in with Walters and has continued playing without a problem. That is, until recently when his medical records on file expired.
Walters says because Gilbert moved around the foster system, he fell through the cracks. "The reminders were sent to New Berlin. Somehow, we were not notified. As soon as I was notified of the paperwork, I had it done with 24 hours."
But the deadline already passed. President and CEO of Special Olympics Wisconsin, Dennis Alldridge chooses not to make an exception.
He released a statement essentially, saying the organization is sticking to the rules. It says in part, "Like any other athletic organization, our policies, which include our medical form deadline, exist to ensure a safe, fair, and quality sports training and competition for all involved. To expect anything less is to say athletes with intellectual disabilities aren't legitimate athletes and don't deserve equal standards."
It's not the answer the young athlete is looking for, "I am just a little upset that the guy says no," says Gilbert, holding back tears.
Gilbert is still allowed to practice with his team, but cannot play in the tournament games. He and his family hope Alldridge changes his mind before the Rocket's next game on March 10th.
In the meantime, Walters and her family are planning another tournament on March 16th for special needs athletes to give Gilbert and other people with disabilities a chance to use their talents. Anyone interested can contact Gilbert's mom, Maggie Walters at (262) 424-2682.