Here at the JCC Maccabi Games, we understand that sports are more than just a game. It is a level playing field in which everyone can participate, no matter what. Sports can help people in incredible ways, whether it’s finding a healthy exercise or finding acceptance by your peers. No one should have to be withheld from sports for any reason. That is why we are spotlighting an incredible athlete and person in Kalin Bennett.

Kalin Bennett became the first person with down syndrome to earn a division 1 basketball scholarship when he signed his letter of intent to play for Kent State University. Bennett already has ideas for what he wants to do on and off the court. “I want to make an impact not just on the court, but with kids that are struggling with the same things I am,’’ Bennett said. “I want to use this platform to inspire other kids with autism and non-autism. I want to let them know, hey,if I can do this, you can do it, too. A lot of times they feel alone and by themselves, and I felt that same way growing up.’’

Bennett was recruited by several schools but chose Kent State due to the school’s commitment to autism awareness. As a child he was told he would remain non-verbal throughout his life. Kent State calls Bennett a “phenomenal human being,” and are excited to see what he can bring to the team and campus next year. Meanwhile Bennett, is proving to the world that people with autism spectrum disorders are not all the same — and never to count them out. While their path might be more difficult, they can achieve anything, and now there will be a college athlete with a scholarship playing the highest level of NCAA basketball to be a role model.

Kalin is just the latest example of why no one should be discounted or pushed away simply because they face a harder reality. With the help of doctors, his family, and his community, he can accomplish great things.We hope that we can help provide an event of inclusion, so the next Kalin Bennett can flourish at the games.