The Bellefonte Wizards are preparing for the Virginia state championships of the Special Olympics, a new achievement for the basketball team comprised of men and women who live in Alexandria residential programs that assist adults with intellectual disabilities.
“We’ve never made it this far,” said Peter Mathews, the team’s coach and a staff member at the Bellefonte Group Home. “We don’t have a clue what it’s going to be like, but it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
The state championships will be held March 15 and 16 in the Stafford area. The team is staying in a hotel in Fredericksburg for the two-day affair.
Mathews is in the process of lining up a team van to transport the players together and the Wizards are looking to raise funds to enhance their tournament experience.
To do so, the team is holding a pep rally and dance from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday at the Nannie J. Lee Recreation Center, located at 1108 Jefferson St. Tickets are $10 and are available at the door.
The team was founded in April 2009 after members of Bellefonte House—MOB for short—expressed a desire to play together in Special Olympics events as opposed to being separated into different teams. Mathews, who was coming off a double hip-replacement, agreed to coach and put the players on a training schedule.
The members of Bellefonte House give back to the community whenever possible, assisting in things like clearing debris after storms and volunteering at the local Salvation Army.
The Wizards have 11 players and several managers, all involved in the city’s residential programs. The team designed its own Wizards logo, which adorns their purple uniforms. The squad raises money for tournament entry fees, equipment, uniforms and other expenditures through bake sales and other fundraisers.
“We have the most generous neighbors on the planet here in Del Ray,” Mathews said. “We’re proud to be living here in Alexandria.”