Ben Hill and his wife Erin-Leigh Bond have two daughters. One of them, eight-year-old Charley, was born with a genetic condition, Trisomy 21.
“We always dreamed for her and her sister to be active and engaged in sports,” said Hill. “Her first sport to try was Timbits soccer and she had fun, but now she’s really developed this passion for basketball so we said if this is going to be her thing, let’s do it.”
Charley is wrapping up her season playing minor basketball with the U10 Cole Harbour Rockets. By all accounts she’s had a terrific season playing in the Metro Basketball League. Part of her development came when she attended a girls’ basketball camp last summer at Dalhousie University.
“She just developed this sense of confidence, maybe even a little bit of swagger,” said Hill. “She’s just found her thing and it couldn’t make us more happy.”
Charley’s sister plays minor hockey but Charley’s love of basketball likely comes from her parents. Ben Hill played at Halifax West High School and went on to play basketball at Mount Saint Vincent University. Charley’s mother played high school basketball at Auburn Drive High School in Cole Harbour and played ringette for Nova Scotia at the Canada Winter Games. But Hill says he and his wife have been careful not to push Charley too hard.
They are planning for her to attend the Dalhousie camp again this year.
“When I met her at camp she quickly became an inspiration to all of us,” said Dalhousie women’s basketball coach and camp director Tanya McKay. “She just brought joy and her smile and energy and she was just so much fun to be around.”
Charley is not the most experienced player on her team and her game is limited in some ways because of Trisomy 21, which is commonly referred to as Down syndrome. But she is learning and improving with each game and her coaches have made some adjustments that have helped her game progress.
“Although she learns quite quickly and she can keep up with all the other girls, some of the rules of basketball took a little bit longer for her to understand,” said Tanya Deveau, one of the coaches on the Rockets team. “But the refs and the other players on teams we would be playing against and their coaches have all been so understanding.”
This weekend the Rockets are playing in the Basketball Nova Scotia jamboree in Halifax and they’ll wrap up their winter season next weekend in Bedford. Charley has scored six baskets this season. Her first was recorded by her father on his cellphone and the video went viral after it was tweeted by Sportsnet anchor Ken Reid, a Nova Scotia native who is a friend of Hill.
“First baskets are so special!” Meet my friend Ben’s daughter Charley! An 8 year old born with Trisomy 21 who loves to hoop and is full of hope!Inclusion matters more than you know!!!” <a href=”https://t.co/dzQ74pRsmc”>pic.twitter.com/dzQ74pRsmc</a>
“We have this little girl who has faced challenges in her life and when she made that first basket the fans and parents were jumping up and down, I had tears in my eyes and her teammates were all yelling for her,” said Deveau.
Time will tell how long Charley will continue to play basketball. Her team has been like a second family to her this winter and one thing no one can question is her commitment and love for the sport.
“She practises before school starts and after school is over,” said Hill. “When you see her shooting a basketball you will understand that is her happy place.”
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