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Shooting Baskets for Special Olympics

The auditorium/gymnasium was a-buzz with the sounds of children yelling encouragement and cheering accomplishment Friday, but it wasn't the typical basketball game they were engrossed in.

Instead, the students at the Nysmith School for the Gifted, located in Herndon, were in the midst of a fund-raiser for Special Olympics. Throughout the day, each student, ranging from 4-years-old to third grade, was given a minute to attempt as many baskets as possible. The students had previously collected pledges from family, friends and neighbors, for each attempt. All of the money collected, $10,000, will be donated to the local branch of the Special Olympics.

"It's about children helping other children," said Sheryl Schwartz, chair of the school's community services committee. "They can see the difference they’re making."

THIS IS THE SECOND YEAR, the school has raised funds for the Special Olympics in Northern Virginia, a year-round program of sports training and athletic competition for children and adults with mental retardation throughout the Northern Virginia region. This year, the school decided to adapt the national Make-A-Point fund-raiser program the Special Olympics uses by stressing the attempt rather than the basket itself.

"One of the Special Olympics tenets is to be brave in the attempt," said Nancy Roodberg, the chair of the fund-raiser. "Being a school for the gifted, our students need to learn you don't always win and there is more than one way to accomplish something."

TO HELP INSPIRE the students, Katherine Parfitt, a Special Olympics athlete from Greenbriar, along with her mother, Donna Parfitt, a Special Olympics board member, were on hand.

When each class entered to gym to take their shots, Katherine Parfitt got them started by showing them her medals and leading them in warm-up exercises.

"This is tremendous. The local areas don't get any funding from organizations like the Kennedy Foundation, for example," Donna Parfitt said. "It's all local donations and we have to pay the county for space for practices and tournaments. We have to pay to send the kids to states in November and the summer games in June. It costs about $60 per athlete. We don't charge the families for anything."

Katherine Parfitt, a 1998 graduate of Chantilly High School and 2000 graduate of the Davis Center, competes in basketball, bowling, soccer and swimming.

"I've been doing it since the fifth grade. I've been doing for a really long time," Katherine Parfitt said.

The event was also the opportunity for the students to learn a life lesson without even knowing it.

"We're really trying to educate the children that it's a diverse world out there," said Roodberg. "Everyone is the same deep d