Farmington coach recognized with first Goodness GrantJun 09, 2022 10:40AM ● By Alec Cipollini
FARMINGTON– After hosting his 19th game of basketball for special needs students on Feb. 12, Farmington High School athletic director and basketball coach Kasey Walkenhurst received the first Goodness Grant from Awardco on May 3 for his dedication and service in Davis County.
Awardco, a company partnered with Amazon, gives $1,000 grants to those who were nominated by their peers for helping to build and connect nearby communities in Utah every month.
From 2002 until the present, Walkenhurst followed up on an idea from his friend Jessie Josie that was originally thought of when they were both at West Jordan High School as students, and Walkenhurst has hosted a basketball game for junior and high school students with disabilities one Saturday every February except for the year the COVID-19 pandemic prevented it.
“I stole the idea from my friend (Josie) and he did it as an Eagle Project in the Salt Lake valley,” Walkenhurst said, jokingly. “He said he would volunteer at a school helping special needs students and we wanted to incorporate basketball into it.”
Walkenhurst started at West Jordan High in 2002 and coached at Woods Cross High before moving to Farmington High four years ago, and the game has happened wherever he goes.
An invitation is sent out each year to schools in Davis County and as many families as possible to get kids to participate and enjoy the festivities they have to offer.
Players from the Viewmont boys basketball team helped with special needs students and ran a skills camp a half hour before the game started.
“We have had kids who ride in wheelchairs since they can’t walk,” Walkenhurst said. “We have a few kids with Downs syndrome who are absolutely hilarious. There are other things that some students deal with, but everyone has a blast every year.”
Dribbling, ball handling, layups and shooting are some stations that the participants go through to get warmed up before the main event.
The two, 12 minute halves begin when the drills are over and it is game time.
Walkenhurst said that the result of every game each year is the same and there is never a clear winner.
“After half time, the game somehow always ends in a tie every year,” Walkenhurst said.
When the competition ended, the kids gathered around each other and took a group photo before they received some gifts from various supporters and donors affiliated with the event.
“Before we sent them off to their parents, we gave them some Farmington Phoenix basketball T-shirts,” Walkenhurst said. “Chip Cookies in Farmington donated some cookies for us and the cookies were giant. Last year, one of our senior players on the high school team had a grandma who owned Minky Couture and each kid got a blanket.”
While golfing this spring, Walkenhurst received a phone call and text which told him he won the grant.
Being awarded the grant came at a “good time,” as Walkenhurst’s wife Emily gave birth to their baby girl and first child Blakely on May 24.
“It was awesome that I won the award knowing that we were having a baby,” Walkenhurst said. “The grant money will all go towards her. I was shocked that I got nominated by a peer of mine and I thank them for nominating me.”
When looking back at each game that Walkenhurst has hosted, he said that his most favorite things each year are the reactions from the families and the kids.
“Everyone has so much fun,” Walkenhurst said. “Some of the reactions after making shots are exciting. The kids feel like they are a part of Farmington Phoenix basketball and the parents have such great gratitude since most of the kids really look forward to this every year.”
Walkenhurst expects the tradition to continue sometime next February.
If there is someone else that has helped a local community in any way, they can be nominated for the monthly Goodness Grant at Awardco’s website, award.co.λ