Good call by Missouri h.s. referee gives fan with Down syndrome a moment in spotlight

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BARNARD, Mo. — One referee is receiving praise for an unusual  call he made prior to a high school basketball game last week.

Referee Don Lawrence invited a fan in the first row to toss the jump ball at the beginning of the game.

“He noticed Cole was wearing his referee jersey and whistle and he was mimicking the start of the game, things like that, and he had the idea that it would be a good idea if he would toss the jump ball to start the game,” said South Nodaway physical education teacher Aaron Murphy told St. Joe Channel.

The fan was South Nodaway freshman Cole Henggeler. Henggeler has Down syndrome and enjoys watching the officials, which made the referee’s gesture even more special for the 14-year-old.

“Being around Cole for long time now and seeing him at ball games, he has an infatuation with referees, he loves mimicking the calls, the fouls, loves having the whistle and it’s something we’ve done in the PE class with him,” said Murphy.

Henggeler’s mother, Carrie,  had a front-row seat to watch as her son helped get the game started.

“I’m really proud of Cole,” she said told St. Joe Channel. “He does great in academics, he does great in athletics and he’s just all around a great kid.”

The referee said he was happy to help.

“Very big thank you on behalf of the South Nodaway school, the crowd that was there it made their day not only Cole’s. It was a great thing to see. You know very generous of him in that idea,” Murphy said.