Herald Photo / Provided
HOOPS  — Ryan Smalley, Kokomo Fire Department Local 396, puts on his game face at last year’s event.
Herald Photo / Provided HOOPS — Ryan Smalley, Kokomo Fire Department Local 396, puts on his game face at last year’s event.
In Indiana, basketball in March is king. And for the 16th year, Bona Vista Programs is hosting its own version of Hoosier Hysteria with its annual Disability Awareness Basketball Game, featuring a group of local celebrities battling some of the best from Bona Vista.

Scheduled for March 22 at 5:30 p.m. and featuring free admission, Memorial Gymnasium in downtown Kokomo once again will be filled with the smell of popcorn and the sound of squeaking shoes of the two teams’ battle to help celebrate March as Disability Awareness Month in Indiana. Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight will start the evening with a proclamation, and then the fun begins on the court.

“We hope a lot of people come out and watch the game,” said Alison Brantley, development and public relations coordinator at Bona Vista. “It is always a great event and a fantastic way to support Bona Vista.”

Organizers said the event promotes awareness and inclusion for people of all abilities and is made possible by the Mayor’s Advisory Council for Disability Issues, which is chaired by Kimberlee Gabriel and Ashley Macky. It is also a fund raiser for Bona Vista’s various programs, with a goal of $10,000 this year.

“It had not been a fund raiser in the past,” said Brantley. “But because we have an amazing community, we thought we could generate some funds for Bona Vista programs. And we have great celebrities who can help. We also solicited sponsorships this year, and we are excited about that.”

In addition to the game, fans will be entertained by a local dance and cheer group between quarters and at halftime, crowd participation games, a stocked concession stand and more. Before the game, Kim Sprinkle will sing the National Anthem. Performers scheduled to entertain include Kickin’ It with Kari junior and senior group, Kokomo High School cheerleaders, Central Middle International School Fusion Class and the Kokomo Dance Team (KHS and CMIS pom and hip hop).

Brantley said Coca-Cola Bottling of Kokomo is a sponsor this year and donated two-liter bottles for the event.

“We will have a Pop-a-Shot Contest at halftime,” she said. “Contestants donate a dollar, and if they hit a three-pointer they get a two-liter bottle. I will also have some of our Special Olympics basketball players there to help me run that.”

The Bona Vista Bistro group also will be at the game and will sell brownie samples for one dollar, and fans then can vote for which brownie they like the best.

“This will also people to interact with some of our adult persons served at Bona Vista. They are very social,” said Brantley.

This year’s celebrity team includes Jessica Green from Z92.5, Kokomo firefighter Ryan Smalley, Tom Hughes from Maple Crest Middle School, Sean Cameron of Acacia Academy and the Kokomo Herald, Brian Pier of Walgreens, Bart Irwin from Community First Bank, Troy Stiner of Eriks Chevrolet, Kokomo High School Athletic Director Jason Snyder), Kevin Sprinkle of Select Equipment Services, Brad Conwell from Expressions, Rodney Ogle from the Kokomo Tribune, Kokomo Parks Superintendent Torrey Roe, and Mark Jansen of Jansen’s Tax Service and Asphalt.

Members of the Bona Vista team include Dorman Miller, Eli Alexander, Patrick Hamilton, Brian Rans, Erik Chalk, Craig Simmons, Robert Weaver, Charles McKinney, Steven Martin, Jessica Brewer, Ally Oyler, Nate McFarland, Tallis Bowers, Brooke Sawyer, and Tristan Rogers.

Chad McCarter of the Kokomo Perspective and Steve Geiselman of the city’s development department will coach the celebrities, while Donta Rogers from the Carver Community Center will coach the Bona Vista squad, a team that has downed the celebrities for at least seven consecutive years.

Brantley said celebrity players are also part of the fund-raising efforts this year. Players are soliciting donations, and the top fund raiser will win a prize. Donations also are being accepted online at bonavista.org through March 21. Click on “donate” and type in the player’s name in the comments section so they receive credit for the donation.

Bona Vista would like to thank the following for donating time to the event: basketball officials Tim Knowland, Greg Cunningham, and Dick Smith; scorekeeper Noah Zunick; public address announcer James Robinson; Vicki Boles and students for fund raising; Kellie Weaver and family for concessions; Felicia Lowrey; Expressions Design; Z92.5, WIOU 1350 and Rock 98.5; Kokomo Center Schools; Kokomo Herald; Kokomo Perspective; Kokomo Tribune; and the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council.

For more information, contact Brantley at (765) 457-8273 or email her at abrantely@bonavista.org.