For one teenage girl, standing on the shoulders of giants started out as nothing more than a dream.
That dream seemed out of reach for 19-year-old Hanna Strebel.
The younger sister of Shantaya Strebel, a now-graduated Lethbridge College Kodiaks forward from Tabiona, Utah, has Down syndrome.
Back in March, Hanna’s smile lit up the bench and became a key part of history when the women’s basketball team were crowned the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) champions after an undefeated season.
Although Hanna only managed to attend six games all season, the bond she made with the team was unbreakable.
“The team made me happy,” said Hanna.
The Kodiaks lovingly referred to her as “Coach Hanna” and made sure she was a part of the action.
Hanna confessed to her family she dreamed of being picked up by the team and carried around the court while the girls all cheered.
According to newly named head coach Deanna Dotts, she was determined to make it happen.
When the team clinched the victory at the CCAA’s, they made Hanna’s dream come true.
They celebrated with her, picking her up and carrying her high atop the hardwood on the shoulders of champions
“It was my dream. It felt great,” said Hanna.
The influence Hanna had on CCAA All-Star Logan Moncks changed her outlook on people with disabilities. She says Hanna continues to inspire her every day.
“Hanna has changed my life. She has shown everyone that a disability will not stop her,” said Moncks.ADVERTISEMENT
Prior to this past Saturday’s game against the St. Mary’s Lightning, last season’s team returned to the place where it all began and raised a championship banner to celebrate winning the 2017 CCAA championships.
As the banner fell, no smile shone brighter than Hanna’s.
“Hanna is very special to me so it’s exciting to see her get to be a part of this. For us players this honour was something we hoped for, but this was dreams for Hanna and we made it happen. It’s awesome,” said Moncks.
For the second time, the girls grabbed Hanna and hoisted her high as she thrust her fist, tightly curled to display the number one, into the air and smiled.
Following the unveiling of the banner, the reigning title holders were presented with championship rings.
Standing alongside the team, Hanna received her very own ring.
Her older sister Shantaya says it was amazing to witness Hanna’s pure joy.
“She was just so happy. Word’s didn’t need to be said because you could just see it on her face,” said Shantaya.
The now assistant coach at the University of Lethbridge expressed her thanks to Lethbridge College, saying she is so grateful for the love shown to her sister.
“The way she was included and accepted here warms my heart.”
Shantaya continued to sing the praises of the Kodiaks community for their inclusion of Hanna.
“It’s amazing to have such a supportive team, school and community. It doesn’t just happen to anyone, but Hanna deserves it,” said Shantaya.
Having Hanna be a part of the championship journey helped the relationship between not only the sisters but the entire team.
“This whole experience has been a cool bonding experience for us. Hanna actually told me one day, ‘it is cool my friends are your friends.’ She just really loves the whole team,” said Shantaya.
Moncks believes the bond formed throughout the season was part of the championship recipe, and Hanna was a huge part of their victory.
“Being a family on and off the court is what made us so successful.”