There’s a certain thirst inside someone who loves basketball as much as Desiree. It’s always there, waiting to be quenched. Patiently walking the court while pushing a broom in front of her, Des volunteers at her neighborhood recreation center by tidying up the space once a week. Collecting the dust beneath her broom, she glances at the hoops occasionally. Careful about her work, it’s clear Des holds the space in high regard but she won’t be satisfied until she’s on the court, ball in hand instead of broom handle.
Des started playing basketball when she was young. It is one of the things that she feels really good at, “I love basketball. I’ve been playing for a while,” she says. “I’m actually pretty good at it. If you take a look at me, for real.”
The sound of the basketball dribbling on the court marks the end of her volunteer shift. Weaving the ball between her legs and sinking layups at a steady pace, a thundering rhythm fills the court.
“My brothers played with me when I was a kid,” she says in between baskets. “My older brother Timothy used to teach me some pointers.”
Today, Des plays alone. But in a few months, she imagines a whole court filled with other players. Des’ next plan is to start a pick-up game with other women at the rec center. She is working with Ben, a staff at Starfire, to make this a reality.
“Right now people might think of us just as the custodians helping out,” Ben said, “But hopefully once they see us out playing and they see other people playing with us, they’ll start to be interested in building a relationship with us. And with you, specifically, Des.”
We know that building a social network for Des cannot be rushed – or created. If we try, there’s a real risk that she is only known for her disability, and that others see her as someone they “volunteer” for instead of as a mutual friend. That’s why Des’ friendships must start with what is important to her, and what’s important to the people she’s connecting with. For her, that looks like many nights playing basketball with other women, getting to know each other on and off the court, growing to love each other through a mutual affinity and respect. We know that this takes time. Luckily, what Des does have is just that.
Are you interested in playing basketball with Des? Contact Ben Lehman at Ben@starfirecouncil.org to find out how you can get connected.
And if you’d like to come to the hottest March Madness event of the year, check out Starfire’s Final Four FlyAway!