Inaugural basketball tournament aiming to raise awareness for autism

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ROCKINGHAM COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) -- A local basketball tournament in Harrisonburg is raising awareness for autism: "Hoopin' for Autism Summer Showcase."

The group hosting the inaugural tournament is Your Future Basketball, an elite, non-profit travel team, which has a volunteer coaching staff.

The doors to Eastern Mennonite University's Yoder Arena will open at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, and the last game is set to tip off at 9:00 p.m.

Twenty-eight boy's and girl's teams from all over Virginia will be at Saturday's tournament, and they range from 12-year-olds to high school students. There will be players from Harrisonburg, Staunton, Manassas, Winchester, Augusta County, Loudon County and Warren County.

To David and Leticia Fowler, educating their players is important.

"Our kids in our program understand you don't have to laugh at somebody that's different, you don't have to alienate them," David said.

"As Temple Grandin would say, 'The world needs all kinds of minds,'" Leticia said. "It's important to bring that awareness to our student-athletes and their families."

The purpose of the tournament hits close to home for the Fowler family.

"Our son has autism," David said, "and my wife and I are special education teachers at William Monroe High School."

"It's important for us as people to be very patient with individuals like that," Leticia said, "because, at the end of the day, they are part of our future."

A representative from Spectrum Transformation Group, which is a resource for children diagnosed along the autism spectrum, will be at the tournament to answer questions and offer advice. Part of the proceeds raised by the event will go to the group.

Tickets are $10 at the door, and there will be a fully-stocked concessions stand. Children 11 and under can enter for free.

This is the first year for the event, but based on all team slots selling out, the Fowlers hope to make it an annual awareness tournament.

To learn more about Your Future Basketball, you can visit their website.