Kidd-Gilchrist gives Special Olympians “fantastic” experience

Published 9:56 pm Tuesday, July 2, 2019



He was a consensus All-American his only season at the University of Kentucky when he helped UK win the 2012 national championship and has played seven years in the NBA for the Charlotte Hornets.

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Yet Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has never forgot about helping others. That’s why he reached out to UK about doing a basketball camp for Special Olympics athletes in Lexington. 

“It just kind of took off from there when UK basketball called to let us know what he wanted to do,” said Mark Buerger, communications director for Special Olympics Kentucky. “But this all came from him (Kidd-Gilchrist). It was something he really wanted to do, so we put together an event he could be part of.”

About 60 Special Olympians from Lexington, Louisville and northern Kentucky attended the camp at UK Sunday and Buerger said it was a “fantastic” experience for all of them.

“I think any time we can get our athletes together with athletes from other parts of the sports world it is a win for everybody,” Buerger said. “There is a universal language that all athletes understand. 

“As well known and loved in Kentucky as he is, for him to come back and do this camp said a lot about his character, how much he values giving back and how much he wants to spread the general values that sports teaches.”

Buerger said everything he had heard about Kidd-Gilchrist’s personality and character turned out to be true.

Kentucky freshman Emma King of Lincoln County helped Special Olympic athletes who attended a camp put on by NBA player Michael Kidd-Gilchrist Sunday at UK. (Vicky Graff Photo)

“Things like this do matter to him whether it is in Charlotte (where he plays for the Hornets), New Jersey (where he is from) or here. What he did today says a lot about him and the (UK basketball) program and a lot about the people coming through UK,” Buerger said.

Kidd-Gilchrist has always had a special bond with special athletes. His father died from multiple gunshot wounds when he was three years old. The former UK star also stuttered and worked to overcome that so he could handle the spotlight on him because of his athletic ability. However, he always enjoyed interacting with youngsters or those who had adversity to overcome like he has.

He averaged 11.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.0 steal per game during his one year at UK. With the Hornets, he’s played in 421 games and averaged 8.8 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game while shooting 47.7 percent from the field.

“He walked around from station to station and interacted with the athletes the whole camp,” Buerger said. “A lot of our athletes just wanted to high five him and talk to him. Who wouldn’t?”

Special Olympics Kentucky secured camp counselors from Asbury College, Berea College and Frederick Douglas High School along with players from the University of Kentucky women’s team to help at the camp. 

“Obviously Michael could not do instruction for all 60 athletes on his own the whole time,” Buerger said. “We have a great relationship with UK Athletics overall through the student-athlete advisory council and the women’s basketball team answered our call. They have volunteered with us before and they were great. They took the drills seriously without making the work serious. They were just great with our athletes and a lot of fun to be around.

“Everybody that came was great and it was nice to see so many different people there helping our athletes.”

This was the first time Special Olympics Kentucky had been part of an event like this. Buerger is hoping it won’t be the last.

“This was a first-time thing for us and we wanted to get a good event under our belts and invited others to be part of it. We hope this will lead to more things in the future and I certainly hope this is not the last time we do something like this because it was really a fantastic day for everyone,” Buerger said.