When Professor Katie Currul-Dykeman’s 19-year-old son Colin, who is on the autism spectrum, was younger, the faculty member had difficulty finding a recreational sports program that was the right fit for her child.

“So, we created our own,” said Currul-Dykeman, the director of Stonehill College’s Martin Institute for Law & Society

For the past 13 years, the Sharon Stars program has offered individuals with disabilities the opportunity to learn about and play basketball in a fun and supportive setting. Each week, members of the Stonehill men’s basketball team travel to Sharon alongside Coach Chris Kraus to help run the program. 

“Our kids think the players from Stonehill are superstars,” Currul-Dykeman said. “Even when the Skyhawks are busy traveling to their own games, Coach Kraus always makes sure they’re there on Sunday to play basketball with the Stars.”

Kraus thinks it is important for his Stonehill’s student-athletes to be involved with a program like this, as it helps them appreciate the perspective of people whose experiences may be a bit different from their own.

“It’s a great opportunity to help others, which is what we’re all about at Stonehill College,” he said. “We’ve become family with the Sharon Stars. We don’t feel like we have to do this. Instead, we’re all appreciative that we get to do it.” 

Somebody somewhere sees you as a hero. I realize I need to hold myself accountable and to a high standard.

Stonehill forward Andrew Sims ’23 has learned to look on the bright side of life through his participation in the program. 

“It’s all about the smiles you see on their faces,” he said. “Just being around those kids, you get to experience the joy and happiness that they get from sports. It brings you back to the old days of being a kid and playing the sport for fun. You live through them as you watch them play.” 

After he graduates, Sims hopes to play basketball professionally, either in the United States or abroad. 

“I was a quiet kid when I came to Stonehill,” he said. “The kids in Sharon helped changed that. That’ll continue to impact me as I keep stepping outside my comfort zone once I graduate.” 

Skyhawks guard Joshua Mack ’23 said working with the Stars has taught him the importance of being an example for others.

“The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that there’s always someone looking up to you,” he said. “Somebody somewhere sees you as a hero. I realize I need to hold myself accountable and to a high standard.”

Kerri Adams has enjoyed watching “the gentle giants from Stonehill” interact with Stars player Mikey Howe, her grandson. 

“My favorite moment is the first day of basketball season when the Stonehill team first shows up at East Elementary in Sharon,” she said. “Watching them get comfortable and have fun with kids who are so excited to work with them is great.”

Marie Sloan and Ron Goodman, the parents of Jake Sloan, note that visiting Stonehill is their son’s favorite part of being a Sharon Star. Each year, the program culminates in a trip to the Merkert Gymnasium. The Stars not only attend a Stonehill basketball game, but also treat spectators to a showcase of their own athletic abilities.

“Watching them play at halftime is a true highlight,” Goodman and Sloan said. “It’s heartwarming to see the Stonehill students cheering and clapping for the Sharon Stars.”