February 14, 2018 1:01 pm
Updated: February 14, 2018 4:08 pm

Oliver high school embraces special needs team manager, 5 years after he graduated


On the court Josh Tester may look like any other member of the Southern Okanagan Secondary School’s senior basketball team, but Tester actually graduated five years ago.

The 24-year-old was born with Global Development Delay and later developed cerebral palsy.

His mother Dawn Everest said Tester has the mindset of a child between the ages of five and eight.

Josh and his education assistant Mary-Ellen Hesselgrave at prom


He lives at a group home in Oliver, B.C. but his life still revolves around high school sports, so the school’s education assistant Mary-Ellen Hesselgrave picks Tester up from his home and brings him to the school’s gymnasium to catch every practice, and every game.

“Our main part for Josh that we love the most is how he comes to our games and he’s always our biggest fan,” said Grade 12 basketball player Tyson Marsel.

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“He’s even at all of the practices and stuff, sometimes before we even get there!” said player Shan Gill.

SOSS athletic director Steve Podmorow said Tester not only cheers on the basketball teams, but other sports as well.

WATCH BELOW: Captain Josh – SOSS Senior Basketball 

“He happens to be the person in the crowd that you hear cheering the loudest and most positive one out there for sure,” said Podmorow.

The jocks accept Josh’s high fives and hugs and the senior boys even chipped in to buy Tester a treasured team shirt.

“Because he comes to watch so many of our games and supports us so much we decided it’s only fair to get him one,” said player Sahij Gill.

Coach Maurizio Basso began the inclusion back when Tester first came to SOSS in grade nine.

He said he is proud of his students for embracing Tester and including him with a team uniform.

“I don’t know if the boys comprehend just how big that is, because I know that Josh will talk about this incessantly for hours on end and it just makes his day, it makes his month, his year,” he said.

“Thanks to these amazing young people and their incredible coaches, Josh has found extreme joy from cheering on his hometown teams sometimes from the team bench,” said Everest.

Players have grown and graduated, coaches have come and gone, but the acceptance and encouragement has never faltered.

“In a time when our young people are judged for being selfish and disconnected, this is a beautiful testament to the opposite,” Everest added.  “Never once has Josh been bullied, teased or ignored.  We are so incredibly blessed and thankful for the love and support this small community has shown our son.”

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