Blair Oaks Helped by Amanda Henke
Look right behind the Falcons bench and you'll see an important part of the team sitting close by in the stands wearing green and white and cheering loudly for her team.
"Just to let her have that, you know, feeling of belonging with these other girls. You know she's not going to play or anything like that, she knows that. But it gives them that good feeling of being able to be part of something," said Head Coach Leroy Bernskoetter.
Amanda Henke can't play because she has Down's Snydrome, a genetic condition that affects physical and mental development. However, her love for the game of basketball and her sister can't keep her away from the court. So when the girls show up for a game, Amanda does too.
"I like coaching basketball games because I get to watch my sister and cheer her on," said Amanda.
"How she always cheers me on, whenever I shoot free throws I hear her every now and then, I smile" said Lindsey Henke. "Here she's very supportive in my events when I play sports, so it's neat."
For her father, former Major League Baseball closer Tom Henke, watching Amanda become an accepted member of the team is very special.
"It makes me feel good watching her be able to participate," said Tom. "When she was born in 1986, you know, there was a period of time where Kathy and I both went through the 'Why us?', 'How did this happen?' But she's really been a blessing."
It's a girl's game that Amanda's helping out with tonight here at Blair Oaks, but even though her favorite part about lending a helping hand to the team is being with her sister Lindsey, she still helps with many of the boy's games, because both teams give her the chance to be around the game she loves.
"The main thing I think with the girls is she's so likeable and so social that all the girls like her, and even the boys," said Bernskoetter. "She helps with the boy's team too sometimes. She just wants to be there and participate and be a part of the team somehow. You know physically she can't play basketball with some of these kids, so this is an opportunity for her to go out and participate and enjoy the game."
While her constant cheering takes up most of her time, she is responsible for filling up the team's water bottles before each game starts -- a task she takes very seriously.
"I like to fill the water bottles up. It gives them more power!" said Amanda.
The line that separates what's really important in life is often blurred when sports are involved. For the girls basketball team at Blair Oaks, one special part of the team helps keep that line in crystal-clear focus.
"She makes me smile," said Lindsey. "And you know, sometimes, maybe it's a stress relief before games, and it makes you realize things aren't as important.
"I like to watch the girls play, and cheer on my sister. She's a real good basketball player. And I love her," said Amanda.
A love for her sister, and a love for the game of basketball -- a combination that makes Amanda Henke an especially important part of the Falcons team.