In an act of true sportsmanship and generosity, Special Olympics parent Debbie Antonelli sunk 2,400 free throws in her 24-Hour Nothing But Net marathon on May 18 to support Special Olympics South Carolina. The event in Mount Pleasant, SC kicked off with a three-hour festival, including games, entertainment and food.
Debbie, an ESPN and CBS basketball analyst and former college player, organized the marathon and asked supporters to donate online. Three days after the event concluded, donations are still coming in, due in part to national news coverage about Debbie’s hoop skills and accomplishment reported in publications like USA Today and The Washington Post. So far, officials at Special Olympics South Carolina say Debbie has already raised over $80,000.
Debbie has three sons who are all basketball players and fans. She says her son Frankie, a Special Olympics athlete and college student at Clemson University, is part of her motivation. He has been with Special Olympics since he was six and competes in swimming and golf along with basketball. “Frankie has competed as a Special Olympics athlete in multiple sports and is thriving because of these experiences. Team Antonelli is proactive about sport and the lessons it teaches about giving your best, working as a team and staying healthy. Frankie’s work ethic and competitive spirit inspire me.”
Going into the marathon, Debbie hoped to make 80% of the baskets in the 24-hour timeframe, which means she would have missed about 600 baskets. However, she netted a whopping 94% of the shots, only missing 153. Her performance is garnering comparisons to the WNBA’s Kayla McBride and the NBA’s Steph Curry. Debbie is flattered by the comparisons but points out that she was under significantly less stress than the professionals. “Personally, I’m glad that all the training paid off. All of the hard work that the fitness and nutrition teams put in to helping me prepare really paid off.”
Barry Coats, President and CEO, Special Olympics South Carolina was impressed with Debbie’s creativity and dedication in pulling the marathon together. "What an incredible event that Debbie Antonelli put together for Special Olympics South Carolina. The amount of money she was able to raise for a first time event was awesome and far exceeded our expectations. Even more impressive was the awareness for our athletes garnered by her efforts."
Debbie plans to make the 24-Hour Nothing But Net marathon an annual event. She hopes that other Special Olympics programs will join her. She says, “If I can do it at, other people can do it to.”