by Melanie Zuercher
NORTH NEWTON, KAN.– Community can do a lot of things – even make a little boy’s dream come true.
Kristin Larson-Jantzi, an admissions counselor at Bethel College, has a 9-year-old son, Beckham, who’s crazy about basketball – in particular, University of Kansas basketball.
But because Beckham has Asperger’s syndrome and is unusually sensitive to loud noises, going into the bedlam that is a KU home game at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence is out of the question.
Since Kristin’s recruitment area includes Lawrence, she’s acquainted with Bethel alumni who live there, including Brad Nachtigal, a 1991 graduate who is assistant athletic director at KU.
She queried Nachtigal about the possibility of attending a KU Jayhawks practice. “He told me to call [KU head coach] Bill Self’s personal assistant and ask, and that I should give her his name.”
So Kristin did. The assistant told her that practices were closed, especially before a game, but that she would pass on the message.
The next thing Kristin knew, she had a call on her cell phone telling her to bring Beckham and her husband Adam Jantzi to Allen Fieldhouse on Friday, Feb. 1.
They were the only people in the gym besides the team, the coaches and two scouts from the Charlotte Bobcats who, Kristin says, took a great interest in Beckham “and told him if he worked hard and kept up his grades, maybe someday they would be recruiting him.”
The coach also came and introduced himself, telling Beckham: “I heard that you don’t like loud noises, but I want you to know I’m going to yell at the players sometimes, and I only do it because I love them and I want them to do their best.”
When practice was over, Self brought over the players and had them line up and introduce themselves to the Jantzi family, then have photos taken. Beckham got one with his favorite, Jeff Withey, KU’s senior center.
“Then the coach sat down and visited with us for about 20 minutes,” Kristin says. “He was interested in Beckham’s school [Hesston Elementary] and in the Bethel community.
“I don’t know how to thank everyone,” she adds, “from the people at Bethel who have been so supportive of us, to Coach Self and the team. I don’t think they’ll ever know how much this meant to Beck. It’s the only way he’d have been able to see his heroes play in Allen Fieldhouse.”
“It was fun to see what [the Jayhawks] were made of,” Beckham says. “I’m actually really proud of my mom for doing this for me.
“This was a dream I never thought would come true.”
Bethel College is the only private college in Kansas listed in the 2012-13 Forbes.com analysis of premier colleges and universities in the United States and ranks in the top five “Best Baccalaureate Colleges” in the Washington Monthly annual college guide for 2012-13. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see www.bethelks.edu.