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LOFT program wins regionals, exceeds expectations



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March 09, 2011 - Jeanee DiCicco has taken the Oxford LOFT program to new heights this year.

She began the year with a simple goal in mind: to get the kids in the program involved in as many Special Olympics sports as she can.

The LOFT program has far exceeded her expectations as they won the regional Special Olympic basketball tournament with their victory over the Farmington Storm on Saturday, March 4 in Northville.

"It has been the most awesome experience ever," DiCicco said. "We're very excited. Their self-esteem has gone way through the roof and I am just so proud of them."

Winning the regional tournament did not come easy for DiCicco, who only has 10 players on the squad this year. She has had to work extremely hard teaching her students the fundamentals of basketball.

"I made it part of our curriculum as part of our daily physical exercise we do," she said. "We have been practicing three days a week on just the skill of basketball."

Even with the limited numbers, she can see her students giving maximum effort every time they step onto the court.

In addition to playing in the regional tournament, the LOFT program participated in two previous tournaments to get her kids used to playing basketball in a tournament setting. "They really got to learn what it was all about being in a tournament and being a part of Special Olympics," she added.

DiCicco added since her program began participating in Special Olympics, their network of connections has expanded. "They met a lot of new people, and I have met a lot of people that can (help) expand our program to develop our friendship and socialization skills with other peers in their age bracket."

On Feb. 16, Oxford took on their rivals from Lake Orion in a friendly basketball game between the two programs. DiCicco was amazed by how much support her kids received from the students and faculty from OHS.

"It really boosted their egos and their self-confidence," she said.

The school's support for the program stretched beyond the one basketball game. The program has been able to use the gym to practice and OHS chipped in to purchase the LOFT program basketball uniforms since they were representing OHS.

This is the first year that Oxford High School has participated in the Special Olympics on their own. Previously they were teaming up with Lake Orion High School.

However, this year DiCicco wanted to build the Special Olympic program at the high school. "I'm hoping to build our special olympic in Oxford to where every age level, every grade level can somewhat compete in whatever they decide to compete in," she said.

In addition to basketball, DiCicco students have participated in soccer, bowling and swimming. They are currently training for the track and field season, which is set to begin next month.

In order to accomplish their goals, the LOFT Program is having a fund-raiser at Collier Lanes on Sunday, March 13 beginning at 4 p.m. The cost is $20.

DiCicco would like to thank everyone who has supported the program's Special Olympic efforts. "The parents have been wonderful and the district has been great in supporting the Special Olympic program here and for allowing us to do this," she said. "I'm hoping we can grow into a really dynamic Special Olympics program and we can represent Oxford Schools."

The state tournament will be Friday, March 25 and Saturday, March 26 in Rockford. "At this point, it doesn't matter how far we go," DiCicco said. "Just to see the glow on these kids faces and how happy they are that they have gone this far, that is what is most important."

Andrew Moser is a staff writer for the Oxford Leader.
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