For the first time in the history of the Special Olympics of Arkansas, the organization’s district basketball tournament will be played on the campus of the University of Central Arkansas.

The Area 17 Special Olympics of Arkansas District basketball tournament will be held this Saturday at the HPER Center.

Sage Pruett, a junior student at UCA who attended Vilonia High, spearheaded the project of getting his fraternity, UCA’s chapter of Sigma Tau Gamma, to host the event. Pruett is an early childhood education major, so once he found there was a chance to bring the tournament to UCA’s campus, he got to work.

"Our fraternity was looking to provide some outreach to Central Arkansas," Pruett said. "I’ve been involved in the Special Olympics of Arkansas all of my life, and it’s a great organization. I thought it would be a great idea for us to put this on."

There are 12 teams committed to participate in the tournament, which is slated to start at 8 a.m. Local teams from Greenbrier, Vilonia and the Conway Human Development Center will also compete. 

"These young men and women are just like everybody else. The only difference is they may have a special need," Pruett said. "We want to create a fun environment for them. I know I like for people to come watch me play, whether it was when I was playing football at Vilonia or playing intramurals with the Sig Taus. 

"They are the same way, and they’re normal just like everybody else. So if their family and friends, and people that just want to come, would support them, then this could really be a great experience for them."

The championship game is scheduled for about 2:30 p.m., and the public is invited to attend. Sigma Tau Gamma had a fundraiser for the event at Outback Steakhouse in Conway. Outback Steakhouse donated hamburgers, fries and drinks for the cause. Meals were available to customers for $8, and all of the proceeds went to the fraternity. On Saturday at 11 a.m., about midway through the event, Sigma Tau Gamma will present a $1,000 dollar check to the Special Olympics of Arkansas. 

"Providing fellowship and having fun are the most important things we want to accomplish on Saturday," Pruett said. "The Special Olympics of Arkansas is a great organization. I want to devote the rest of my life to working with people with special needs. I definitely wanted to help, but this couldn’t be possible without Sigma Tau Gamma and God. It’s just a blessing to help to others."