The Big 33

April Mitchell

English 202

Heather Powers

27 Sept. 2011

The Big 33’s Special Needs Buddy Team

Originating in 1957 is an All-Star football game, also known as “The Super Bowl of High School Football,” that showcases thirty-four of the best football athletes in Pennsylvania and thirty-four of the best football athletes in Ohio competing against each other in an exciting football game each year to win the classic (About Big 33 Game 1). What famous classic am I talking about? The Big 33 Classic of course! Pennsylvania currently holds the record for most games won over Ohio, with nine wins over Ohio’s eight wins (About Big 33 Game 1).  The name of this classic got its name from the thirty-three players that participated on each team (PA and OH) in the past but recently, the kicker was added as a player on the team so there are now thirty-four players on each team (Big 33 Football Classic 1). This showcase of excellence, from sixty-eight of the best football athletes in Pennsylvania and Ohio, is played at Hershey Park Stadium in Hershey, Pennsylvania on a Saturday night in mid-June with kickoff typically starting at 7:00 pm.

It sounds like I’m just talking about a plain old football game, but this classic is definitely more than a football game. Several good results come from this once in a life time experience. For example, one good cause that comes from this classic is the ability to hand out thousands of dollars in scholarship money to high school seniors. Since 1985, over $3,900,000 has been raised for academic scholarships and last year the classic awarded seventy-nine academic scholarships to high school seniors throughout Pennsylvania and Ohio (Scholarships 1). The Big 33 includes several groups of people including football players’ cheerleaders, and special needs buddies. The Big 33 incorporates a special needs buddy team which is the most unique and beneficial thing that the Big 33 offers I believe which leads me to wonder how does the incorporation of the buddy team affect the football players and the special needs buddies themselves? I had the opportunity of a lifetime to experience this awesome event which took place during my senior year of high school. This was a life changing event for that I would have never had the chance if it wasn’t for participating in the classic but the thing that touched and affected me the most was the incorporation of the Big 33 Special Needs Buddy Team.

The incorporation of the special needs buddy team started in 1985 and is a dynamic part of the classic (Buddy Program 1). The 2010 buddy team was comprised of one hundred and seventy-six special needs children ranging from ages six to twenty-seven with numerous different special needs and last year’s buddy team reached record breaking numbers and was comprised of over two hundred special needs children (Buddy Program 1). The incorporation of the buddy team has raised one main question within the community, however, and that question is “does the incorporation of the buddy team have a negative effect?” I personally don’t believe that there is a negative effect with the incorporation of the buddy team for so many reasons. One reason is because the buddy team builds a foundation of hope and optimism for special needs children who are facing challenges each and every day of their lives. The buddies, with the help of others participating with the classic, are encouraged to pursue their goals, develop their potential, have great expectations, be proud of their accomplishments no matter how small or big they are, be integral members of their families and of the community, and to commit to building lasting relationships, as well as many other things (Buddy Program 1).

During game week, memories are developed through opportunities for exceptional kids to share time with their football player, cheerleader, or coach both on and off the practice field during the week preceding the game which is another reason why I don’t think there are any negative effects of the incorporation of the buddy team (Big 33 Football Classic 1). Each special needs buddy gets to share many incredible memories with their football player buddy or cheerleader buddy, whoever they choose, throughout the week that they will never ever forget such as getting their pictures taken with their buddy, practicing with them, eating lunch with them, and experiencing the banquet and game introductions together (Dir. Big 33 Buddy Program 1)The special needs buddies get to experience “the best week of their lives” as many of them claim and the Big 33 is something that they look forward to throughout the whole year so how can it be a negative effect (Big 33 Football Classic 1).

The incorporation of the buddy team affects the football players as well but I believe it is in a positive way again. The football players have never known challenges like the ones that the special needs buddies face every day and interacting with them is an experience that the football players will ever never forget (About Big 33 Game 1). One of the Ohio football players from last year’s team said “It is a really big eye opener and makes you appreciate life a lot more” during an interview (Dir. Big 33 Buddy Program). You can tell that the buddy program really affects the lives of the biggest, strongest, and toughest elite football players that get the opportunity to participate in the Big 33(About Big 33 Game 1). You can also tell that it only affects them in positive ways because you often hear about the players exchanging numbers at the end of the week and writing letters to their buddies’ months after the Big 33 is over (Big 33 Football Classic 1).

Connie Steinhour’s ,who appeared in a video placed on YouTube about the Big 33, is the mother of a son who participated in the buddy program for about twelve years, was so amazed and moved by what the program did for her son that she decided to volunteer to be the Ohio volunteer buddy coordinator (Dir. Big 33 Buddy Program). In the video, she states that the buddy team touched her heart and that besides Christmas; the Big 33 is her son’s next favorite thing (Dir. Big 33 Buddy Program). The success of the buddy team program is marked by the fact that both player and buddy have so much to give.  It may be a simple souvenir or that final hug, but the memories of the Big 33 week last forever (Buddy Program 1). I can honestly say that I still don’t believe that there are any negative effects of participating on the Big 33 special needs buddy program. The looks on the faces of these special needs children stick with you as well as hundreds of other memories that seem to never go away. I can remember to this day my buddy from two years ago, Whitney Boose, and several details about her like that she was the cheer buddy captain of the 2010 buddy team, she loves the Penn State Nittany Lions and Joe PA, and she attended to Cumberland Valley High School. It amazes me how much I remember about her and all of the other buddies when I can barely remember what I did last week!

Overall, the Big 33 special needs buddy team/program has proven to be one of the most enjoyable, memorable, and rewarding aspects of the Big 33 program, and has come to epitomize the goal set by the Big 33 Football Classic:  to create lifetime treasured memories for both the “buddies and the Big 33 Players, Cheerleaders, and Coaches” (Buddy Program 1). The incorporation of the buddy team shows that the Big 33 is much more than a game; it’s a life changing experience for the players, cheerleaders, coaches, and special needs buddies that only have positive effects year after year after year.


Works Cited

“Big 33 Football Classic.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 09 Oct. 2011. <;.

Ngo, Toan. “About Big 33 Game.” Big 33 | More Than A Game. PNC Big 33 Football Classic. Web. 21 Sept. 2011. <;.

Ngo, Toan. “Buddy Program.” Big 33 | More Than A Game. PNC Big 33 Football Classic. Web. 21 Sept. 2011. <;.

Ngo, Toan. “Scholarships.” Big 33 | More Than A Game. PNC Big 33 Football Classic. Web. 21 Sept. 2011. <;.

YouTube – Broadcast Yourself. Dir. Big 33 Buddy Program. Perf. Big 33 Participants. YouTube – Broadcast Yourself. Big 33 Buddy Program, 19 Feb. 2010. Web. 21 Sept. 2011. <;.

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