Freshman Bret Hammond Plays Basketball For Down Syndrome Awareness

By Mattie Shea

After the All-Star basketball game the group lined up for a picture. Fredbird regularly visits the team during games to help cheer them on. (photo submitted by James Hammond)

After volunteering and participating at the Polar Plunge through the Albert Pujols Family Foundation, freshman Bret Hammond was compelled to join other teams and events through this foundation. The Albert Pujols Family Foundation puts events together all year round and works to raise awareness for those who have Down Syndrome. As Bret began to participate in many sports such as basketball, soccer and golf, schools in the area such as Bryan Middle School and John Weldon Elementary, reached out to invite Bret and his parents to come to the school during awareness week for disabilities and talk to some of the students.

“Last Wednesday I went to John Weldon and talked about playing on the All Star basketball game,” Bret said.

At John Weldon, Bret spoke to the third, fourth and fifth graders at an assembly where he described what it was like playing on an All Star team, which is where celebrities play alongside the teams at the game in January. Albert Pujols participated with Bret this year. The kids playing alongside the pros practice for three months starting from the first week of November, all the way to the big game in January at Missouri Baptist University with over 1000 people in the stands watching.

“I actually coach the whole All Star basketball team, even the celebrities on the day of the game,” Bret’s father, James Hammond said. “I also go to the schools with Bret and talk to the students as well.”

The results of the anticipated basketball game this January was 111-109 with Bret’s team in the lead. Highlights of the game that Bret will never forget included Bret not only making the first hoop of the game and scoring the first points but also shooting the last basket, winning the game for his team.

“When Bret talks it really proves that he is just like anyone else,” James said. “When I listen to him talk at the schools I’m just so proud and think that he does things that I wouldn’t have imagined doing when I was his age.”

To keep Bret happy it’s not just about playing the sports he loves, but about who surrounds him while doing so. Teamwork is a big topic talked about during his assemblies. On the teams Hammond plays for, everyone is appreciated and friendly, making the whole experience even more enjoyable. Not only does Bret love his teammates but he also values his dad as the coach for the basketball team.

“My parents do a great job helping me and when my dad coaches he’s a great help,” Bret Hammond said.

Bret and his family continue to spread the word and get people aware of how similar everyone really is.

“It’s important to bring awareness and show that we are all differently abled, and that shouldn’t hold us back,” nurse Brooke Magilligan said.