One of the best stories I’ve come across in a while…Truly touching to think that if given the chance and opportunity, that we could be capable of so much more if we look past our limitations and strive for greatness. Owen Groesser, an 8th grader with Down Syndrome that was able to score three-pointers during his school’s basketball game is a hero and inspiration. This proves that we cannot judge what others are capable of…we have to give them the opportunity to show us. Here’s the amazing story as reported by Mlive: Owen Groesser is an eighth grader that became a celebrity overnight after hitting a couple of three-pointers at a basketball game. Although that doesn’t sound like much, his story has certainly inspired people all across the nation. Those that are fans of the wildly popular SportsCenter show on ESPN got to see a video of Owen, who is a Down syndrome student at Van Hoosen Middle School in Rochester Hills, hit a couple of high-arcing three point shots that sent the gym into a delighted frenzy. Thanks to video captured by his sister, Owen’s big night went viral on Twitter and even earned him the top spot in SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays on Thursday morning. Since then, the media wave has enveloped the Groesser family and its community. It tells a story of how one boy – along with the acts of coaches and teammates – was able to capture the hearts of anyone who saw Owen step up in the spotlight. With all of the madness and tragic stories that seemed to plague the headlines of 2012, Owen’s story has helped everyone get 2013 off to a much more heartwarming start. However, one of the best stories this young year has seen almost did not happen. The Plan It was Jan. 18 and Owen had just finished up with basketball practice. As the team manager for the Van Hoosen seventh-grade boys basketball team, Owen had never missed a practice. He was always giving advice and participating with the kids. But on that night, Jeff Howell approached Owen’s mother, Kari, with a plan that had her son grinning from ear to ear. “Both of them were walking up to the car like the cat that swallowed the canary,” Kari said. “My first initial thought was, ‘Oh no, what happened?'” But what Howell had to say quickly had Kari grinning as well. Howell had discussed with the team that they were going to let Owen suit up and play in the final home game which was scheduled for the coming Tuesday. “He said, ‘What do you think?'” Kari recalled. “I said, ‘Oh my gosh, that is awesome.'” In fact, Howell and the basketball team had gotten to work on a specific play called “The Owen” to run when Owen was on the floor. “I picked a spot on the floor that I thought he would be comfortable shooting from,” Howell said. “(Three-point range) is where he hits the most shots, actually.” Forming “The Owen” from the offense that Howell usually runs, Owen starts down at the block like everyone else. Then, one of his teammates sets a pick for Owen in order to help get him open. Getting the ball at the three-point line, Owen had the option to shoot a three or take a lane to the basket. After getting the opposing coach at Boulan Park Middle School on board and seeing one of his players offer to give up his guaranteed playing time for Owen, everything seemed set. Then, Tuesday came around with coldest day of winter so far, forcing school districts in the are to close schools. Boulan Park thought that Van Hoosen closed and thought the game was called off. However, school was not closed, putting Owen’s big night in jeopardy. “At 3:20 – the game is scheduled for 4:00 – we get a call that it has been cancelled, everyone go home.” Howell knew that the chances for a middle school basketball game to be rescheduled aren’t very high. Even the Groesser family thought Owen’s chance to play had passed. “We hear about this and we are so disappointed,” Kari said. However, Howell would not let his efforts go to waste. He got on the phone with the opposing school, rebooked the gym, rescheduled the busses, referees, and scorekeepers all at the last minute. Howell’s efforts paid off as he was able to move the game back just one day to Wednesday night. “I don’t know if it was destiny or what, but we were able to reschedule,” Howell said. Destiny indeed. The Game Finally, after much anticipation, the night for Owen to take the floor had arrived. Students showed up wearing all white for the occasion, ready with signs and enthusiasm. Of course, Owen’s whole family found its place in the stands as Kari, Owen’s father Chris, his older sister Madelyn, and two younger sisters Lily and Ella all waited on the edge of their seats for Owen to take the floor. Even at that point, Owen’s parents were blissfully overwhelmed by the amount of support that the school had shown for their son. “The fact that they were cheering his name – I thought that just maybe the team knew and a few other people knew (that Owen was going to play),” Chris said. “It seemed like a lot of people knew.” Lily, a seventh grader at Van Hoosen, knew that her word had spread through her friends about her brother playing in the game. In fact, Lily’s friends Olivia and Christina helped spread the word once a teammate of Owen’s tweeted the announcement on Monday. “Everyone just started retweeting that,” Christina said. “Everyone went and it was just really fun.” Finally, with about 2 minutes left in the game, Owen got his chance. With the crowd chanting, “Let’s go, Owen!” once he took the floor, no one could have believed what happened next. One of Owen’s teammates took the ball on an inbounds pass and walked across the half-court line with the team waiting for him. He shouted “Owen! Owen! Owen!” and the players went in motion. Owen got to his spot just outside of the three-point line and got the pass. After a slight hesitation, he set his feet and let loose a three. Swish. Pandemonium. “I screamed,” Kari said, but what her husband corrected as “half crying and half laughing.” “You can hear me completely on the video.” Kari continued. “I’m just screaming. I knew he was going in. I was thrilled and excited. Just for the coach to do this for him was just so amazing.” After two more trips down the court, Owen missed two more three-point attempts. It seemed as if Owen had gotten his moment and everyone was just fine with that. But on the final trip down the court, Owen put up one last three-point shot and, just as the first one, nailed it. The buzzer sounded shortly after and Owen’s teammates rushed the floor while the cheering had yet to let up. “I see him shoot baskets here and he makes those kind of shots,” Chris said. “But the cool thing about it was the way the kids were all behind him. It was pretty cool that he hit the first one that he shot. That was incredible. But I think the kids reaction, the fact that they were cheering for him, the teammates – just everyone being so supportive was really fun.” Little did they know, many more amazing moments were still to come thanks to Owen’s sisters. The Aftermath Luckily for everyone else who came to know Owen’s story, Lily made sure to videotape her brother’s performance. Once Lily posted it to Twitter, Owens older sister Madelyn, who is a freshman at Rochester Adams, got the idea to start a campaign. “Lily filmed it and that’s the one that got all over Twitter because she sent it to one of her friends,” Madelyn said. “Then, I started with some eighth graders and we started doing the hashtag ‘#GetOwenOnSportsCenter’. Then that went viral. In as little as 45 minutes after the video was posted on line at the conclusion of the game, #GetOwenOnSportsCenter was trending and not showing any signs of fizzling out. Still, no one knew how much further it would go. In fact, after the game, Kari and Chris dropped their kids off at home and had to head to a surprise party for a friend. While having dinner, Chris got a text from Madelyn hinting that the video was going viral. Still, Chris and Kari weren’t getting their hopes up. They thought it would be cool to get Owen on SportsCenter, but the odds of that happening didn’t seem realistic. “We’re driving home, and all of the sudden my phone lights up,” Kari said. “It’s just texts of people saying that he’s going to be on SportsCenter, he’s going to be on Channel 7 News.” Starting to think that it might actually happen, Chris still couldn’t believe how all of the information got out there so quickly. “Well, nobody has talked to us,” Chris said. “How do they know his name? How do they, how do they, how do they? We just didn’t think it would happen magically and that’d there be enough information out there to make a story. We were in denial.” When they got home, as curious as they were, Chris turned on SportsCenter. Staying up late to see for sure, the Groesser family got the surprise of a lifetime. It was 11:54 and the Top 10 Plays segment came on, highlight the best plays in sports on that the day. “It was so funny because the guy (on SportsCenter) said #GetOwenOnSportsCenter was tweeted and went viral. And then they put it on and he said, ‘And he is!’ They showed it and it was in the top 10.” However, Owen was already in bed. So, the next morning, Chris earnestly woke up his son to show him that he made it to SportsCenter. The only problem was that when the top plays came on again, Chris did not see his son at the No. 10 spot like the night before. As it turns out, they moved Owen up to No. 1. When it was time for Chris to drop Owen off at school, he figured he would stop in and thank the coach again for what he did for Owen. That’s when the media frenzy began. “I was walking down the hall, and the principal comes chasing me down the hall,” Chris said. Turns out, Channel 4 was going to be there in 15 minutes. Then Channel 7 in a half an hour. Then two people from ESPN called. The list kept building. Chris managed to sit in with Owen for the live SportsCenter interview, even though Chris thought it was just being taped. By the time lunchtime had come around, Chris and Owen were interviewed by three TV stations. To top it all off, the school replayed the SportsCenter interview on every TV in the school 10 minutes before class ended before the day. Obviously, the school was buzzing about Owen hours earlier when school started. Howell, who teaches at Van Hoosen as well, had Lily in his homeroom class that day. “We were talking about the whole homeroom,” Lily said. “I was kind of surprised because my math teacher got a phone call and it was the office telling me to go down to the gym because Channel 4 was there. I never knew it was going to be that big. So, yeah, it was kind of crazy.” Even at Rochester Adams, Madelyn was overhearing people talking about the amazing story of a middle schooler in the district. “I would be at my locker and my locker buddy would be talking about it to a friend of mine,” Madelyn said. “But I don’t think she realized that I was his sister.” Lily and Madelyn had a celebrity brother. The Encore With all of the attention that Owen had received, Howell realized that he had an opportunity to give Owen a chance to shine once again as the basketball had its last game of the year that night, this time on the road. Howell made sure to call and let the host school know that Owen would be playing again but this time there will be a lot more coming along with them. So on a Thursday night at Rochester High School, the Van Hoosen Middle School team got the prime time treatment. Television cameras and photographers were everywhere for a seveth-grade basketball game. “I think it was tough for my entire team to focus,” Howell admitted. “There were so many TV cameras and people in the locker room. People and cameras during timeouts – the atmosphere was unbelievable.” An entire student section showed up for the away game, dressed up in blue for Owen. “I can’t even begin to put that game into words,” Chris said. Owen delivered once again, this time scoring four points – including a shot that was “almost a three” according to his dad. One opposing player even grabbed a rebound and dropped the ball once he saw Owen in front of him. Once the buzzer sounded, everyone flooded the court for Owen, including the visiting team and fans. “There was cheering. More people coming this way and that way and this way and this way,” Owen said as he beamed. “It was super crazy.” For a moment, Kari was worried as everyone rushed the court and she lost sight of Owen. Suddenly, her brief worry was put to rest as Owen was hoisted into the air on the shoulders of his teammates. “Two guys pick me up and I do the number one thing (with my finger). My mom is crying her eyes out,” Owen said with a smile. The Hero In all actuality, this is not a story about a boy living out a modest dream on a basketball court – even as outstanding as it is. Perhaps why Owen’s story stirs up good feelings in all of us is that it is about a story of how a boy some may consider unordinary was given an ordinary chance and, together, became something extraordinary. “It’s awesome. He made two three pointers in two minutes,” Kari said. “In the second game, he was able to get some shots in as well. But the true message for us is in fact that he had a team that never looked at Owen as the boys with Downs syndrome. He was just Owen.” If you ask Owen to describe how he felt at any point during all of the circumstances that unfolded, you’ll see that it is impossible for him not to begin to smile about it. A community embraced Owen, letting an eight grader play with a seventh grade team, and even just for two nights, threw his disability out the window. Heck, not many people even know the score of Owen’s first big game. If you were wondering, Van Hoosen won the game, 35-26. Owen continues to get plenty of attention from everyone in his community. He poses for pictures and even signs autographs. One kid wanted Owen to sign his iPhone case. A five-year-old boy gave him a basketball to sign. One young boy even wanted to give Owen a dollar. Chris politely declined initially, yet the persistency of the little boy forced him to take it with the promise that he would by Owen an ice cream cone. The community around Owen has given him the time of his life. But what Owen has given back in return is far more valuable in a time when the country needs stories like this. Sure, he became an overnight sensation. Who knows how long his celebrity status will go on for? Some people may argue that Owen’s five minutes of fame have run its course. But when you get down to it, Owen is not really a celebrity. He is not even a superstar. He’s more than that. Perhaps a text message that Kari received from a friend helps get the point across: “Your family has truly touched our country today.” Yeah, Owen is a hero.