There’s a special story behind every memorial event, a special meaning for those involved, and a special feeling for those who were closest to the one who is being remembered.
Sometimes most importantly, it’s the name of the event that people are most proud of.
“It’s called the Sharon White Memorial Basketball Tournament,” Sharon’s son Jacob said proudly, sporting a t-shirt made for the event with his mom’s name printed on it.
A Special Olympics basketball tournament will be held Sunday, Jan. 27, at the Willmar City Auditorium in memory of the late Sharon White of Clara City.
“We’ve done the tournament in the past, but have never given it a name. We thought this was the time to honor Sharon for all her work,” said Steve Sharstrom of the Divine House in Willmar and a good friend of Sharon and her family.
On June 24, 2012, Sharon died from complications of cancer at the Rice Memorial Hospital in Willmar. Donations were received in memory of Sharon before and after her memorial in June and a Sharon White Memorial Fund was set up to receive donations in her name, given through the Divine House Special Olympics.
Sharon spent her career working in support services and most recently worked for the Divine House in bered by her active involvement with Special Olympics and as an outspoken advocate for the disabled community.
“She was so involved with all competitive Special Olympics events,” Sharon’s husband John White said. “But she was always more interested in the skills part of the events, where it wasn’t always about winning in the end.”
The tournament is largely funded by the nearly $4000 in donations received during and after Sharon’s memorial in June, and sponsors have been added for addi- tional funding.
“When the idea came up to name the tournament after Sharon it was our biggest fear that it would be a one and done. Having sponsors assured it would be at least a two or three year thing and we are hoping to make it an annual event,” Sharstrom said.
Sharon’s name have a list of the sponsors of the tournament, including Paffrath & Son Jewelers, Walts, Minnesota Screen Print & Embroidery Inc., Dairy Queen, Willmar Elks and Divine House, Inc. The EF Foundation for Foreign Study also donated $500 in Sharon’s name, as she shared regional coordinator duties for them and was a host mother to 34 exchange students in her life.
“We are very fortunate to have the Elks sponsor the event. They are feeding all our athletes and coaches so they can go to the Elks Club down the street, eat and come back,” Sharstrom said.
There are eight half-court teams and two full-court teams registered for the tournament. The tournament is bracketed based on skill level, but it’s not geared for a championship. All athletes will receive a gold medal. “It’s deﬁned as fun for everyone to participate, a camaraderie for special needs athletes,” Sharstrom said.
Over 100 athletes and coaches will participate in the tournament on Sunday and will receive a t-shirt with Sharon’s name on it, something that Jacob thinks is pretty neat.
Jacob receives services from Divine House and has participated in Special Olympics for a long time, Sharstrom said.
“This is where she belonged (working with Special Olympics),” Sharstrom said. “Sharon was wonderful as a caregiver because she had a special needs child. She was a special lady and has a really neat family. I take my hat off to a family like that,” he added.
When remembering Sharon, it was her patience that was so much admired by all.
“She had a tremendous level of patience and was so caring for all developmentally disabled folks,” Sharstrom said.
T-shirts for the event have even made their way to Denver, Colorado where Sharon’s parents Carol and Carlos are.
“I got a phone call from them, I answered and she said ‘Oh this is just wonderful, thank you so much for doing this,’” John said.
“Oh, I think it’s wonderful,” John said.
“It’s a way to thank her for her tireless work,” Sharstrom added.
Note: This article is reprinted here by request of John White, as the Clara City paper's website doesn't allow easy sharing of content via social media. Today would have been the White's 31st wedding anniversity. Bluestem encourages readers to attend the tournament if they are able and to support Special Olympics in their own communities.
Photos: In front, Sharon White’s son Jacob proudly wears the t-shirt made for the Sharon White Memorial Basketball Tournament, named in memory of her. In back, Steve Sharstrom, co-worker, close friend and planner of the event stands next to Sharon’s husband John, proudly holding up the t-shirt. Over 100 athletes and coaches will participate in the tournament on Jan. 27 at the Willmar City Audi- torium. All participants will receive a t-shirt (top).; Sharon and John White (bottom).
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