MURRYSVILLE (KDKA) — It’s become an annual tradition at Franklin Regional High School – Clelian Heights Night.
It’s a night when the Clelian Heights School for Exceptional Children in Greensburg visits Franklin Regional for a basketball game and so much more.
It may be a night of basketball at Franklin Regional, but really, it’s not about basketball at all. It’s about smiles. It’s about making new friends, and it’s about a sense of belonging.
Clelian Heights School for Exceptional Children has only had a basketball team for four years.
They don’t play in front of packed gymnasiums or even get a lot of attention, except for this one night every year.
“Play on our court, in front of our fans and our pep band and just give them an experience that they don’t usually get,” said Kurt Winnich, the Franklin Regional Booster president.
“They’re often excluded in some of the sports and here they think that they’re all-stars, so it just fills our heart with joy,” said Anita Miklos, a Clelian Heights parent.
“They are excited from the moment we announce it until game night,” added Sr. Charlene Celli, the principal of Clelian Heights.
The night begins and ends with Franklin Regional’s two varsity games. But in-between, the players become coaches and the spotlight turns to Clelian.
First, the basketball team.
“I like playing basketball a lot,” said Alex Grubisa, a Clelian Heights student. “It teaches me about friendship, and team work and courage.”
Then, the cheerleading squad.
“Just the look on the girls’ faces, it builds the self-esteem,” Mary Beth Holleran, said Clelian’s cheerleading coach. “We’ve seen so many wonderful things because of it.”
The night is all about the kids from Clelian Heights, but as the players play and the cheerleaders cheer, it becomes apparent that it’s the parents and even the Franklin Regional students who get as much, and maybe even more, out of the night than the kids from Clelian.
“Everyone out there wants to work hard for these kids and see them have fun,” said Charan Singh, Franklin Regional’s team captain.
“It’s really awesome,” added Lizzy Yerecic, a Franklin Regional cheerleader. “Just seeing their faces light up when you cheer with them.”
“Lots of tears in my eyes; I’m so proud of him… to see him out there doing what the other kids do,” said Lisa Stagon, another Clelian Heights parent. “It’s the most wonderful experience.”