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Pacers host six local autistic students to practice, sign them to one-day contracts
Students from The Independence Academy visited Pacers practice on Thursday and then signed one-day contracts, leaving them with a memorable experience.
As the double doors swung open on the northwest side of the St. Vincent Center, to enter the Pacers’ practice courts, the scene was very different.
It immediately became clear that this was no ordinary practice. And team practices are rare this late in a season.
Six high school students from The Independence Academy Innovative Autism School were seated at two tables with Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle at one end and Ted Wu, VP of Basketball Operations and Cap Management at the other. It was fitting for those two to be involved because these select students were able to sign one-day contracts with the team.
Each of these autistic students were handpicked for a variety of reasons — like being hard workers and good students.
Marisa Gill, the wife of former Pacer Eddie Gill, who you still see and hear on Pacers broadcasts, serves the director of the school and she helped organize this special interaction and unique opportunity.
“It was special, they went all out and I know all these kids had an all-around amazing experience of a lifetime,” Marisa said afterward over the phone. “We’re so grateful that they let us do it. It meant so much to the kids.”
Place cards with their name beside a Pacers logo was propped up in front of each student and there were even two microphones set up, just like a traditional press conference.
Each student was asked to say a few words, Pacers sideline reporter Jeremiah Johnson asked a few questions — and then two others spoke up. Myles Turner and assistant coach Jenny Boucek each asked a question, which was on brand. Those two have a great feel for the moment and the big picture.
Myles asked one student for his favorite brand of sneaker. “Nike,” he replied, which appealed to most of the Pacers roster.
Turner and Oshae Brissett then presented them all with gift cards to the team store so they could purchase Pacers gear. Even more, the two players went with the students to make their selections.
But first, the students were presented with a customized Pacers jersey — including their own name and number. That’s in addition to the swag bag they received, lunch, a full tour of the Pacers and Fever locker rooms, and recording a hype video together in front of a green screen.
Before departing for the team store, the students took a group photo with the entire team and then got some shots up on the court on their way out.
This was a memorable day, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for these kids to be at Pacers practice and engage with the players.
More about The Independence Academy: As Indiana’s accredited academic school for 4th–12th grade students on the autism spectrum, Independence Academy has forged its reputation by helping diploma-track students in grades 4–12 establish theirs. Independence Academy is the ultimate manifestation of an innovative autism school. Academic excellence, social, and emotional skill building redefined.