This won’t be just another city showdown for Jim Betker.
When Betker’s Park High School boys basketball team hosts Horlick in a Southeast Conference showdown on Wednesday night, there will be a beloved man in the house.
Furthermore, the cooperation between Horlick and Park behind the scenes to honor this man makes for a warm feel-good story on a cold winter night.
Henry Owens, a former football and basketball standout at Park who graduated with Betker from the school in 1988, will make the trip from his home in Carpentersville, Ill., to be on hand. Owens lost both of his legs above the knees in a boating accident while on vacation last June 19 at Myrtle Beach, S.C.
With the cooperation of Horlick athletic director Joe Wendt, funds have been raised to help Owens and his family through T-shirt sales. There will also be plenty of emotional support from Betker, one of his best friends in high school, and an entire fieldhouse of fans.
“We’re just honoring him as a Park alum and recognizing him for what we consider to be one of Park’s all-time greats when you talk about a student-athlete,” Betker said. “The Park family as well as Horlick have really stepped up.
“I just really appreciate Joe Wendt and Horlick. Joe ended up selling T-shirts on behalf of Henry. Tim Glidden, who is our print-shop guy at Park, made shirts for Horlick that say, ‘Hoopin’ for Henry’ and Joe sold over 100 shirts to the basketball staff, cheerleaders, pom pon girls as well as families.
“We’re just trying to raise a little money to help Henry and his family out. We’ll sell bracelets (at Wednesday’s game) for $2 and any profits will go to Henry’s family.”
Wendt was happy to help Park come to the assistance for Owens.
“Whenever we can do something good for Racine alumni, schools always try to do what they can do,” Wendt said. “Anytime we can do something as a community effort, I was all for it.
“Obviously I bleed my Rebel red and gray (Horlick’s colors), so I said, ‘We’d love to support but please make some red-and-gray shirts. That way, we’ll have two schools fighting for one person.
“It was an unforeseen thing that happened and if we can show that two of the big schools that are rivals everywhere else can some together for an important cause, it’s always a big thing for us.”
Owens was originally scheduled be in Racine for the Horlick-Park showdown Jan. 25, but that game was postponed because of weather concerns. He later made the trip to Park for a social that included Park assistant coach Gary Cotton serving as DJ — an event that had been planned for Jan. 25.
“We just want to show Henry the support that Park has for him,” Betker said. “This started last summer when I got together with coach (Phil) Dobbs and coach (Tom) Sager to come up with an idea of how we can help Henry.”
It will finally take place Wednesday night.