Cooper Greene was all smiles the first time he launched a basketball toward the goal. When it bounced off the rim and fell to the gym floor, he laughed and got ready to shoot again.
With his classmates at Trinity Springs Middle School watching, Cooper eventually sank a shot, which brought a cheer from the crowd.
“Every kid should have a chance to make a basket in his life,” classmate Zack Zalick said.
It was a special moment for Cooper, 14, an eighth-grader who has limited use of his hands and gets around in a wheelchair. He made the basket with help from his “PALS” — students from the school’s Peer Assisted Leadership group, which aids special-needs students during gym class.
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“Cooper has a lot he could be upset about, but he’s always smiling,” said teacher and PALS sponsor Jason Cornelius. “We did this just to see that smile.”
The PALS built Cooper a trebuchet — a type of catapult — and, after many hours of experimenting and adjusting, they were able to launch a ball at the goal with the pull of a rope.
“I don’t care if we do anything else this year,” Cornelius said. “Let’s get Cooper to make a basket.”
Zack and fellow eighth-graders Liam Morgan, Isaac Ballard and Jackson Fowler spent 50 to 60 hours on weekends and after school with Cornelius, building and refining the basketball launcher. They received assistance and technical advice from engineering teacher Matt Quattlebaum.
“Getting it accurate took the longest,” Zack said.
When it was finally ready to launch Thursday morning, dozens of students from PALS and the special-needs physical education class, faculty members and Cooper’s parents gathered in the gym to watch.
Cooper’s dad said his son loves sports and regularly watches the Cowboys, Mavericks, Stars and Rangers.
He’s always wanted to play but couldn’t, his parents said.
Until now, when he pulled the rope that launched the basketball toward the hoop.
Mom Jeri Greene said, “I was surprised the students wanted to do this, that they love him so much.”
As his classmates applauded and chanted his name, Cooper soaked up the attention, grinning from ear to ear, calling his experience “Cool.”
Sandra Engelland, 817-431-2231