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Parasiliti: Torch burns brightly for kids like Adam Barnhart

February 17, 2013|By BOB PARASILITI
  • North Hagerstown bocce athletes Adam Barnhart, seated, and Trey King carried the opening ceremony torch to officially start the tournament at HCC.
Submitted photo

This is one of the very few times you will see the name Adam Barnhart in the sports section.

Unfortunately, you won’t get the chance to read how Adam ran for the winning touchdown, touched them all after hitting a home run or even used a feathery touch to drain a winning basket.

Adam is confined to a wheelchair and never has had the chance to make those kinds of sports memories.

You will never see Adam quoted in story, because he doesn’t speak.

And yet, Adam has a touch that most everyone wishes they possessed.

He has an ability to stir emotion, make people think and create fans.

Adam is one of Maryland’s special needs children who gets a chance to compete in the state’s unified sports programs, which allows like students an opportunity to compete for their schools on varsity level of competition.

On Thursday, Adam and his North Hagerstown teammates were part of a Western Maryland contingent who vied for one of five state championships in bocce at Hagerstown Community College’s athletic complex.

On this day, Adam became an impact player.

He had an amazing day. One that many will remember for a long time, and it was before the competition started.

Adam and his teammate Trey King, a North Hagerstown football player, were selected to be the torchbearers for the opening ceremonies of the third annual event.

With all the pomp and circumstance of the Olympics, Adam — with the help of Trey — rolled down the straightaway of HCC’s indoor track. They signified the start for every one of the athletes, who sat in the stands waiting for their chance to play.

The chance to participate.

The chance to compete.

The chance to do something special and memorable.

And all the while, it stirred a number of feelings. The ones that come with being able to play.

“I love to see the joy this brings them,” said King, who had some of his own joy as part of North’s playoff team last football season. “This is their time to shine.”

King was more than willing to step into the supporting cast. He was the Robin to Adam’s Batman as all eyes were trained on them, but really following Adam.

“He likes to get that smile on his face,” King said. “I asked him if he wanted to look at the crowd — if he wanted me to turn him around so he could wave. He did.”

There were tears of pride and joy to go around.

Robert Waugh, North’s coach, admitted there were a few streams coming from his eyes as he videotaped the moment with his cell phone.

Adam’s dad, Dave, took photos of his son’s big moment and proudly displayed them on Facebook. It was a moment he nearly missed, getting to HCC just in time after driving back from business in Frederick.

“I could tell he was very proud,” said Dave, who also is a videographer for The Herald-Mail. “It was not lost of how significant it was. He took it all in and waved back to the crowd, knowing how special it was.”

Then, came a full afternoon of competition followed. There were 38 teams, divided into the five six- to eight-team brackets, battling on the athletic field of honor.

Bocce, also known as lawn bowling, uses the efforts of special-needs and able-bodied athletes working together. They all work together to play for their school.

On Adam’s turns, King rolled his chair out on the court and turned him in the direction he needed to shoot. King placed a wooden chute at waist level to Adam, who released one of the balls to try and score points for the team.

King, the player, became King, the coach, to help Adam.

“I just try to help him do it all himself,” King said. “I just try to encourage him. I’ll say something like ‘Big roll here, Buddy.’ Then give him a bump after his turn.”

There were variations of Adam-Trey teamwork across HCC’s gym floor as every team had similar action going on. Many of each school’s mainstream athletes participated with their lesser known teammates.

North finished seventh in its division in the tournament. Of the 11 that represented Washington County in the event, only two finished above third place. Hancock won a state title, while Clear Spring finished second in its division.

But, in reality, that wasn’t the point of this competition. That was easy to tell by the smiles on so many faces.

Instead, it was fun. It was relaxed. It was fulfilling. It was a lesson in humility.

“Honestly, every time I play, I want to win,” King said. “This was a whole different atmosphere. If you didn’t win, it didn’t matter. Much of the competitiveness went down out here. We were all out here to have fun.”

In a sense, Adam Barnhart lit a fire under many by carrying the torch on Thursday.

No, you probably won’t be reading Adam’s name again anytime soon.

But there is a good chance you might remember it.

Bob Parasiliti is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-791-7358 or at bobp@herald-mail.com.

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