Men’s Basketball Coach Buzz Williams wasted no time. The day after he took the job, he created Buzz’s Bunch, a sports program for kids with special health needs and their families.
A crowd of up to 150 youngsters, clad in powder-blue Buzz’s Bunch T-shirts, hobnobbed with the Golden Eagles before three home games this season. They got autographs, posed for pictures and shot baskets — with a helpful hoist from significantly taller new friends such as freshman center Chris Otule and senior forward Dwight Burke.
It’s something that 8-year-old Johnny Dassow won’t soon forget. Dassow triumphed over a lot in his young years, including multiple surgeries and chemotherapy to treat brain and spinal cancer. Before Marquette’s game against Presbyterian, Dassow hung out with the team and shot baskets from the free-throw line. “Looking at him now, you’d never know all he’s been through,” says his mom, Barb Dassow. “Watching him play basketball is like, ‘This is so awesome. Does everyone know how awesome this is?’”
Now Dassow cheers for the Golden Eagles and hangs an autographed poster of the team on his bedroom wall. “He really feels included,” says his mom. “That made him become a Marquette fan.”
Toddlers to teens participated in the program’s inaugural year. Players took the program on the road to a Special Olympics event in Chicago, and Buzz’s Bunch will continue during the offseason with a banquet and one-day camp this summer.
“We hope to develop a relationship between the program and these kids,” says Scott Monarch, director of Marquette’s basketball operations. “We want it to be more than just going to a game.”
Williams chokes up when talking about Buzz’s Bunch.
“I have a special place in my heart for special needs children,” he says, “and it’s going to be the legacy that I leave at Marquette because it’s really, really important to me.” — NSE