Christi Oliver knew just how to celebrate a game-ending basket.
Upon sinking a shot to end an adult game during 9th Annual Hoops For Hope, where dozens challenged with Down syndrome get to play alongside Tennessee Volunteers and Lady Vols basketball players, Christi happily encouraged a cheering crowd inside Farragut High School’s Lynn E. Sexton Gymnasium by waving her arms.
Christi, 34, then lovingly embraced her nephew, Trey Carver, 3, to cap things off Saturday morning, Aug. 20. She was among dozens of adults, children [10 and up] and teenagers with Down syndrome who played alongside Tennessee players.
“They have a special bond. He’ll go to Christi before he’d go to me or his papaw,” Carol Oliver, Christi’s mother, said about herself and Christi’s father, David Oliver.
A participant all nine years in Hoops For Hope, Christi “looks forward to it. … She likes to be the center of attention,” Carol Oliver said. “She loves to get to see her friends and their families. And we get to see families that we just normally get to see once a year.”
Kelli Carver, Christy’s sister and Trey’s mother, also attended.
Participation from UT is genuine joy according to both Men’s head coach Rick Barnes and a handful of players.
“… When I got here a year ago all they talked about was this event,” Barnes said about his players. “I think they would tell you they enjoy this event more than anything they do all year.”
Diamond DeShields, Lady Vols redshirt junior guard, participated in her third Hoops For Hope.
“The first time I just didn’t know how much energy the kids were going to have,” she said. “Now we know a lot of the girls and guys.
“It’s like coming back to see your friends almost.”
Shembari Phillips, Vols sophomore guard, said, “I hope it goes on for many years. I hope that even after I graduate I [can] be back for Hoops For Hope be-cause this is a great thing that the community is doing.”
Hoops For Hope silent auction benefits Down Syndrome Aware-ness Group.
David Sexton was event coordinator.
“… I tell my mother, ‘I play for the kids who don’t have the ability to maybe walk,’” Phillips added. “You don’t want to take anything for granted.”
during an address before play began was “most especially The University of Tennessee, to the Men’s Basketball team and the Lady Vols and all their coaches. Without them, we wouldn’t have this event.”