Brennan Besser, a Junior on the Duke Blue Devils College men’s basketball team, is biking, walking, and running from Seattle to New York this summer to raise awareness and support for people who have intellectual and developmental disabilities. Brennan has been inspired by his sister Jacqueline, a nonverbal person who has Autism, to make this trek across the country. His 69-day journey is called Walk On! America and includes 3,400 miles across 16 states ending in New York on July 18th.
Brennan and the Walk On! America team hosted a Basketball Clinic exclusively for Koinonia on Monday, July 2nd in the gymnasium of St. Benedict School, next to St. Monica Church, in Garfield Heights. The event was supported by Knights of Columbus Garfield Heights Council 4130, who provided volunteers, cookies, and assistance checking in people. Over 100 people attended the event.
“My sister Jacqueline is 23, who has autism and is non-verbal. You know, we understand because of firsthand experience that this is a challenge on a day-to-day basis. The small things can seem like such big and monumental achievements. You know, just getting her shoes on. Or just saying something — as simple as that — but deeply close connection to the cause with Jacqueline and her disabilities, but it’s been an honor. You know, the fact that people that even come to the clinics are taking their time to participate because we put it together. The fact that we received that support, it means the world,” said Brennan.
As a surprise to Brennan and his team, Koinonia presented him with a special trophy to recognize “3,300 miles of advocacy and awareness.” Koinonia also recognized the Knights of Columbus, who for over 30 years has been hosting basketball clinics and contests for people who have I/DD.
“Today wasn’t about basketball,” said Cheryl Senko, Director of Development and Communications for Koinonia, “It was about Inclusion. Adults who have I/DD face significant challenges being recognized as community members. Today, everyone got to practice free throws with a great basketball player who gave them one-on-one coaching and encouragement. He touched many lives today.”
“We have a rule with all of our clinics that everybody makes a shot before they leave, and what I hope is that this experience inspires them, you know, to really find that true confidence within and to keep that with them on a day-to-day basis,” said Brennan.
To learn more about Brennan and to follow his Journey across the country, visit their website Walk On! America.