By Sarah Fenton
La Habra Journal
La Habra High School’s number one fan, Aurielle Karr, got the surprise of a lifetime at her basketball game on Sunday that she will cherish forever.
Aurielle graduated through the Special Education Department at La Habra High School in 2012 and still attends all of the school’s games with homemade posters to support and cheer on all of the athletes.
The La Habra High School girls’ basketball team appreciated all of the support they received from her over the years, so they decided to return the support in a very similar way.
“Her senior year the girls’ basketball team made her kind of like a team mascot and she got to lead the team in every home game, she got to go in the team room, she would lead the cheers, and that kind of started our bond with the girls’ basketball team,” said Krista Karr, Aurielle’s mom.
The Lady Highlanders’ basketball team, coaches, and parents went to Aurielle’s basketball game at The First Evangelical Free Church of Fullerton on Sunday with posters that they made for their number one fan. After the initial shock of seeing the team, a huge smile emerged as tears of joy rolled down Aurielle’s face.
“It was amazing and exciting,” said Aurielle Karr about the surprise. “Basketball is one of my favorite sports of all time. My dad taught me how to play so I grew up with it. It’s great to have them come out here and surprise me with all of the posters. When I first saw them I was like oh my gosh and my heart started melting and I had a great game. I was very excited and it was amazing.”
The Lady Highlanders sat on the sidelines and cheered on Aurielle as her team, the Bearcats, took on the Pirates.
“It always feels good to give back to her,” said Megan Chancellor, a senior on the La Habra basketball team. “She’s not only a support to us, but she’s a support to all of the other sports and it’s great to be able to support her. She always makes posters for us, so we made posters for her and obviously she was very happy. She cried when we first saw her, so it was awesome. It warms my heart and I love her to death.”
Aurielle’s support not only affects the athletes, but impacts the parents and coaches as well.
“I’ve been here four years now and she’s been to all of our games for the four years supporting us,” said Jim Bohn, La Habra head coach. “It’s fantastic to come out here and give our support to her. It was touching for her and touching for us to see the reaction when we were here and I think it’s something that we want to continue doing more of.”
“It’s nice to be able to give back,” said Jennifer Zener, a Lady Highlander parent. “She’s been dedicated the entire year, they traveled to our away games, and they’ve been to almost every league game so to see her shed a tear when she saw the girls was really rewarding.”
Aurielle’s parents were very appreciative of not only the surprise she received at the game, but also the support and love she has received over the years.
“It’s amazing the character that these girls and all of La Habra High School have shown,” said Krista Karr. “It’s more than just winning a game, it’s about being quality people. They see the good and they see past whatever special need she has into her heart and it’s amazing.”
“It kind of chokes you up a little bit,” added Aurielle’s Dad. “Watching Coach Bohn with all of the girls, they’re just great kids. We love watching them, we love going to their games and watching Aurielle support them. To have them come out here and support Aurielle is truly just amazing.”
While Aurielle makes poster of her own and cheers on various teams at games, none of it would be possible without the support and encouragement she gets from her parents who take her to the games and cheer for the teams and their daughter.
“We hope she gets friendships out of this,” said Krista Karr. “The support, the caring, the being able to see how other people support each other, and the encouragement to do her best.”
Aurielle’s basketball team is part of a program called Hoops and Stars, also known as HoopStars. The program is a volunteer organization that gives developmentally disabled individuals the chance to play basketball.
“She loves sports,” said Krista Karr. “This whole league is amazing and the fact that she can play basketball and fit in and feel like she’s a team participant is a great thing. When they shoot a basket, even if you don’t see any other emotion, you can see their face light up, so what more could you ask for. It brings happiness to them.”
Robin Preston founded the program in 1997. It started with five players, including her son, and has grown over the past 17 years to 400 players in three cities: Fullerton, Anaheim, and La Verne.
“I believe they gain more than just athletic involvement,” said Robin Preston. “I think a big plus for them is that they have some social interaction with individuals that they trust, that they feel at home with, and that they’re accepted by. I think it’s wonderful for them to be around the families of other young adults in their situation.”
HoopStars’ mission is to instill a sense of accomplishment, teamwork, and competition while providing physical activity and enhancing self-esteem.
“It’s amazing to see the joy they get out of playing,” Preston added. “When they make a basket and all of the crowd cheers for them, it’s very, very heartwarming and it allows them to be successful. This is where they’re accepted and celebrated.”
Although Aurielle’s team lost, the joy and excitement from all of the players was enough to light up the gym and the hearts of everyone watching.