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Sold-out crowd demonstrates support for DHS

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Photo by Pat Sunderland Panther Pack coach Renee Cronenberg offers words of encouragement to Pablo Payan, a fellow DHS teacher. Also pictured are team members Blake Carlquist, a teacher at Hotchkiss High School, and James Hughes, a teacher at Delta Middle

An event planned months before two student deaths at Delta High School became a rallying point for the community last week. A sold-out crowd of 600-plus filled the school gymnasium to watch the Harlem Wizards take on the Panther Pack -- a team comprised of teachers, school administrators and law enforcement.

Delta High School and its student council split the cost of bringing the high-energy Wizards to town, with the primary goal being community unity.

Student council advisor and school counselor Shawna Magtutu put hours and hours into ensuring the success of the event. She said, "The whole evening just made my heart grow with hope, strength and joy for this special community, and the amazing Harlem Wizards organization that made the night so magical and healing for our community, on so many levels. This event also seemed to be the first time in Delta history that we completely maxed out the capacity of our gym (don't tell the fire marshals!). The outpouring of love, support and courage displayed by this community leaves me speechless. I am beyond grateful to everyone involved -- including the beloved families of Ben and Jon. We laughed, danced, cried, and united as one community in our connection and commitment to break the stigma of silence, and continue to spread light and hope."

The Panther Pack lost the game, which wasn't surprising -- the Harlem Wizards haven't been defeated in 40-plus years. They treated audience members to a magical display of tricks, coordinated ball handling, fancy passing and aerodynamic athleticism -- and a whole lot of dancing! Young and old alike got in on the fun. There were lots of opportunities for audience interaction that not only entertained the crowd, but gave the Panther Pack players a break!

Earlier in the day, the Wizards visited the elementary and middle schools in Delta to drum up excitement, share inspiring words with the kids, and demonstrate a few of their tricks. When game time arrived, it didn't take much encouragement from the Wizards for those kids to raise the roof -- and their voices -- with loud screaming and yelling. Only the volume of the music exceeded the energy level of the young kids in the gym, creating a memorable experience for everyone in the bleachers.

Photo by Pat Sunderland At halftime, kids clutching team photos, jerseys and basketballs lined up for autographs from the Wizards.
Photo by Pat Sunderland Cheri Reece and Kirsten Alsdorf cheer on the Panther Pack. JR Reece, an officer with the Delta Police Department (in middle) and Marty Rover, Delta Middle School principal, refereed the game with the Harlem Wizards.
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