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Marquis siblings

Eight-year-old McKale Marquis, left, is a big fan of the Olympia High School basketball team ... especially of her older brother, senior Mason Marquis.

When senior starter Mason Marquis is introduced at Olympia High School home basketball games, he runs through a "tunnel" of teammates and veers off toward his 8-year-old sister.

When he arrives, McKale Marquis and her brother exchange a special handshake.

"She made it up herself," Mason said proudly. "She likes to do that."

It is a brief but telling symbol of the bond they share. Separated by 10 years in age, they have common ground in regard to love and admiration.

McKale Marquis has Down syndrome, but Mason will tell you she is his inspiration, and that wherever she goes, the world lights up.

"She always puts a smile on everybody's face," he said. "She is always brightening peoples' day."

Friday night will be about celebrating McKale's passion and positive energy, as well as that of Seth Bauersfeld, Olympia's veteran team manager who also has Down syndrome.

It will be "Spartans Support Down Syndrome" awareness night when Olympia plays host to St. Joseph-Ogden in an Illini Prairie Conference game. The schools share the Spartan mascot and both teams will wear warmup shirts with a "Spartans Support Down Syndrome" logo for the 6 p.m. junior varsity game and 7:30 varsity contest.

Coaches of both teams will wear the shirts along with cheerleaders and fans of both "Spartans."

Olympia coach Doug Yoder said St. Joseph-Ogden coach Brian Brooks was "all in" when presented the idea of a shared fundraiser for the Central Illinois Down Syndrome Organization (CIDSO).

"It means a lot to my family and it means a lot to families in the community as well," Mason Marquis said. "Not many people know a lot about Down syndrome and what it means.

"People think (those with Down syndrome) have a major learning gap and disability. But my sister is one of the best readers in her class. She is so smart. She doesn't like math that much, but she's willing to try anything. She's very, very determined to get stuff done."

The night was the brainchild of McKale and Mason's mother, Shelley Marquis. She reached out to Yoder and Olympia athletic director Mike Castleman, who in turn contacted St. Joseph-Ogden.

In addition to the T-shirt sales, the event will include a bake sale, 50-50 raffle and a 3-point shootout. 

Oh, and one other thing.

"McKale is going to sing the national anthem," Shelley Marquis said.

A second-grader at Olympia North Elementary School in Danvers, McKale Marquis has done this type of thing before. Yet, stage fright being what it is, Mom has a backup plan.

"We have a CD recording of her doing it just in case," she said, smiling.

McKale is the youngest of John and Shelley Marquis' three children, the oldest being a daughter, Morgan, 22.

Shelley Marquis has seen McKale impact Mason, saying she has made him "a more well-rounded, understanding person." 

"I think that about all of this team," Shelley said. "The basketball team is like her brothers. It's pretty neat to see the reception of the team to her and vice versa."

McKale Marquis and Bauersfeld, who is 26 and a 2010 Olympia graduate, are the Spartans' most loyal and loving fans.

Also a manager for Illinois Wesleyan football and Central Illinois Flying Aces hockey, Bauersfeld beamed when asked about Friday night.

"It's for McKale and me and people like us," he said.

Mason Marquis draws strength and perspective from them, saying his sister "provides so much inspiration in my life." He will head to Heartland Community College next year and play baseball, with McKale in the stands frequently and in his heart always.

"It's just from a determination standpoint of getting through everything," he said of his sister's influence. "When I see the challenges that she has to overcome, it's like my challenges are nothing compared to hers and everything she's been through in just eight years of her life."

It's a good thing the Spartans are doing Friday night.

All of them.

Follow Randy Kindred on Twitter: @pg_kindred



Sports Editor

Sports Editor for The Pantagraph.

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