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Student steps up to the challenge

Shaker senior school’s first student with special needs to play varsity sport

Shaker High School senior, Gianna MacPhee, second from right, was recognized with a standing ovation at Shaker girls varsity soccer senior night. MacPhee, pictured with her two sisters and coach Tara O'Keefe, was the first student with special needs to play a varsity sport at Shaker High School.

Shaker High School senior, Gianna MacPhee, second from right, was recognized with a standing ovation at Shaker girls varsity soccer senior night. MacPhee, pictured with her two sisters and coach Tara O'Keefe, was the first student with special needs to play a varsity sport at Shaker High School. Photo by Billy DeLap.

“I treated her no different than anyone else. She did everything the other girls did. She ran with the other girls and practiced with other girls,” Brehm said. “She really changed the team and the program here at Shaker.”

As Gianna moved through the ranks, coach O’Keefe has been there to support her and called her up to varsity her junior year.

“She has shown me that sports is more than wins and losses, and if we work together, we can bring out the best in youngsters,” O’Keefe said. “Gianna has taught us all so much, and I am hopeful that she will serve as an inspiration to others.”

Gianna’s parents, Roland and Virginia MacPhee, couldn’t be happier with coach O’Keefe.

“I’ve told her so many times I wouldn’t want anyone else coaching my kids,” said Roland.

What doesn’t come across on a scorecard or in stats is Gianna’s inspirational dedication to the team. She hasn’t missed a single practice in four years and is eager to get on the field rain or shine. She was chosen as team captain for Shaker’s home games.

After sectionals this fall, Gianna won’t be able to compete on the field but she will still remain part of the team. Coach O’Keefe has asked her to come back as an assistant coach next year. She has also been invited to the Regional Best Buddies workshop to talk about overcoming obstacles and what she has accomplished.

“I think it’s great and an inspiration from the coach here to say to everyone else out there, don’t look at someone and say whether or not they’ll be a starter, everyone adds something to the team. It proves here after four years of playing, that you can do it,” McCoy said.

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