LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – There was a long and noisy ovation after the national anthem was sung during the U of L women’s basketball game at KFC Yum! Center last Thursday, but the applause wasn’t for celebrities.
Instead, it was for the choir that sang it: a group of men and women with developmental disabilities who came together to show that the challenges had to be overcome.
Thursday evening, as the U of L women’s basketball team warmed up before the big game, the Southeast Christian Church Bible study group, chosen to sing the national anthem, did the same. A couple of years ago, the group – made up of people of all ages with developmental disabilities – decided they wanted to form a choir.
They formed the H.O.P.E. Choir. The letters indicate “Helping others to succeed”.
“We have people with physical disabilities,” said B.J. Levis, H.O.P.E. Choir instructor. “We have people who may be deaf or hard of hearing, partially sighted or blind. We have some people with Down syndrome and some people who have only intellectual disabilities.”
As a teacher at the U of L, he linked the choir to the basketball team.
“Some of the girls who received extra credit in the classroom came to our practice and sang with us too,” said Levis, adding that it was “a great antistress for them and of course our kids loved it.”
Molly Lockhart, striker for the U of L women’s basketball team, said the chorus is inspirational.
“They face such different types of problems, and then you, how, do you realize how grateful you are, because if they can be so positive, why can’t we?” she said.
Coach Jeff Walz spent much of the pre-game time meeting the chorus and being grateful that his players focused on more than just the game.
“It’s serious for all of us, of course, but in the end, it’s a game,” said Walz. “And then we have the opportunity to meet young men and women here which, you know, is something that they are fighting for life and learning to keep trying to adapt.”
The hope. The choir sang church carols and the national anthem before the U and L volleyball baseball games.
This is their last chance and choir member Reagan Mayer said he can’t believe it.
“I think it’s fantastic!” she said. “I never imagined it would happen!”
While performing in the national anthem, it is clear that I am a confident choir.
“I guess I’m a talented woman!” Catelynn Alpiger said.
Lockhart said she is impressed.
“They are big!” she said. “They sing better than me, for sure!”
And the crowd let them know that they are the winners with a standing ovation.
Walz stressed that, for his players, between 10,000 and 12,000 can’t be expected to show up for their games. They must return to the community. And he is happy that they are doing it in many ways, including H.O.P.E. Choir.
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