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Homewood Police renew hardwood rivalry with Exceptional Foundation

A global pandemic didn’t stop the Homewood Police Department from fulfilling its annual trip to the Exceptional Foundation to join mentally challenged people in some basketball.

The event wasn’t the actual game they’ve played the past several years, but no one on the court Nov. 24 complained.

“We love to do it every year,” Homewood Police Lt. Andrew Didcoct said at the foundation’s Jay Harbert Youth Center. “It’s one of our favorite days of the year. We come out here and support the Exceptional Foundation. It helps them raise money and raise awareness.”

The feeling is mutual for the Exceptional Foundation staff and clients.

“We look forward to this every year,” said Robbie Lee, the public relations director. “This is a way for us to really connect with our community in a unique way. We feel like we’re a pillar not only of the Homewood community but the Birmingham community. Any time we can connect with others who serve people, that’s a win-win for us.”

Normally, Homewood officers go head to head on the basketball court against a team of young adults from the Exceptional Foundation. In that sense, the police play the role of the Washington Generals, the team that usually falls in exhibition games against the Harlem Globetrotters.

Concerns about COVID-19 squelched the traditional game but not the event.

Instead of a regular game, Exceptional Foundation guests took on officers in some basketball skills competitions. Those ranged from a basketball dribbling relay race to a layup competition to a 3-point shooting contest.

The festivities concluded with Exceptional Foundation guests taking part in a slam dunk contest on a peewee basketball goal. Police officers acted as judges, occasionally flashing 10s with their scorecards.

And, as always, the guests of the Exceptional Foundation came out on top. But Didcoct said that’s the way he and his fellow members of the Homewood force like it.

“We’re all winners today,” he said. “We had a great time and we enjoy coming out here.”

Exceptional Foundation President Tricia Kirk said Homewood police play basketball with their guests every year. But this year may be more special, she said, because it brought happiness to both parties.

“The police’s jobs are so much harder. Our job, to be honest, is so much harder just trying to understand today’s world,” she said. “For them to come in here and to see the smiles on their faces and to see our people jump up and down saying we’re going to take down the police in basketball is outstanding.”

The Exceptional Foundation is a nonprofit established in 1993 to serve people with special needs in the greater Birmingham area. It targets social and recreational objectives not met by educational institutions or the community at large.

Kirk said Exceptional Foundation serves 760 people at its location in Homewood. She said the foundation has programs in Atlanta, Auburn and Fairhope.

“We are continuing to serve the mentally challenged population (beyond) Birmingham,” she said.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

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