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ATU Players Connect With Kids in Bartlesville

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Danielle Frachiseur and her friend, Bane, were in a world of their own on Friday, March 3, at the Red Apple Bowling Center in Bartlesville, Okla.

Frachiseur, a senior forward on the Arkansas Tech University women’s basketball team, and Bane, an elementary student in the Bartlesville School District, talked, danced and then danced some more.

The only interruption came when it was Bane’s turn to bowl and Danielle would help push his wheelchair to the foul line.

“He’s just really excited to be dancing and bowling,” said Frachiseur. “He’s very enthusiastic. This means a lot to me because we not only get to play basketball, but we get to come out here and do something for the community, which is really important to me. We get to see the smiles on the kids’ faces, and that’s really nice.”

Similar scenes played out throughout the bowling alley on Friday morning, just as they had on Thursday morning when eight other basketball teams participating in the 2017 Great American Conference Tournament --- including the Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys --- visited schools in the Bartlesville area.

“These kids, the Bartlesville kids, talk about this all year long,” said Dan Keleher, who helps organize the school visits and bowling alley field trip through the Bartlesville Sports Commission, host of the GAC Tournament. “We had a kid from Harding…they met four years ago when this girl was a freshman, and they walked in today like they were old friends. Friendships are made here that last forever, and that’s what it’s really all about.”

Diana Cole, special education teacher in the Bartlesville School District, was among the personnel supervising the field trip to the bowling alley.

“It’s a good opportunity for our students to get out of the classroom,” said Cole. “It is great that the basketball teams interact with our students in this way, and it’s a chance for our students to maybe do something they’ve never done before. You can see that some of them have given up on the bowling, but they’re still having a good time.”

Dave Wilbers, head women’s basketball coach at ATU, has led the Golden Suns to Bartlesville for the GAC Tournament six consecutive years.

“I’m very thankful for all the community service our players do, but this really might be one of the highlights of the year to come out and bowl with these kids,” said Wilbers. “The returning players all talked about what we were going to do, and everyone was really excited jumping on the bus this morning. To see the interaction with these kids is something that a coach appreciates and a blessing for our team.

“One of the (Bartlesville students) told me last year this is the highlight of their school year,” continued Wilbers. “You see the smiles on their faces and them having success bowling, but more importantly, the girls cheering them on and the overwhelming enjoyment they’re having today. It’s rewarding for all of us.”

Photographed: Arkansas Tech University women's basketball player Danielle Frachiseur helps her friend, Bane, bowl while Dave Wilbers, Golden Suns' head coach, looks on during a community engagement event in Bartlesville, Okla., on Friday morning.