Special Olympics Washington teams up with Hoopfest

SPOKANE, Wash. - Hoopfest has been a huge supporter of Special Olympics Washington for nearly 30 years, helping to raise close to one million dollars for 17,500 athletes across the state, several of whom make up the 62 Special Olympics teams at Hoopfest this year.

Several of the Special Olympics athletes we spoke to excel in winter sports like skiing, but they wait all year to sign up for their favorite home state event, Hoopfest.

Heather Comer won the gold medal for snow skiing at the Special Olympics World Games in South Korea, but she says nothing beats hanging out with her friends and playing some ball.

"It's just the best sport ever. I mean, it's the only time I get to play basketball is here at Hoopfest," said Comer. 

She joined Anna McCoy, fellow skier and 10-year Hoopfest participant on a Special Olympics team called Fierce Tigers.

But they didn't get too much time to practice before their 3-on-3 games this weekend. 

"I was trying to do more defense, trying to do more defense than last year because that's kind of hard for me to do," said McCoy. 

And they didn't win as many games as they would've liked to, but that's not what Hoopfest is about to them.

Comer said, "whether we win or lose, we have fun."

Two courts down from where the Fearless Tigers played, athletes were playing in a newer Special Olympics movement, unified teams.

"Those are athletes with and without intellectual disabilities," said Dan Wartelle with Special Olympics. 

Participants say playing on the same sports field has lead to new friendships that last on and off the court.

"We're not just teammates, we're family," said player Danny Fowler. 

Special Olympics Washington says the Hoopfest environment allows their athletes to excel and truly bring out the best in them, which is what they're all about.