A recent girls basketball game between Southeast Polk (Pleasant Hill, Iowa) and Ankeny included a very special exchange toward the end of the game.
It was Ankeny’s senior night and also Ankeny senior Ashley Baxter’s final home game as a high school student.
Usually spending time on the bench anticipating a chance to get on the court during the game, Baxter came into the game near the end for her final chance at playing time at home.
Baxter has a genetic defect called Prader-Willi syndrome that affects her cognitive skills and also gives her a constant sensation of being hungry. A low muscle tone connected with the disorder makes exercise also a struggle for her.
So any time that Baxter is on the court is special to her.
This season many schools have gone out of their way to help Baxter get a basket in the game, Southeast Polk was no different.
“I tell people all the time that I think the schools have been fantastic as far as helping Ashley out so she can score,” said Baxter’s father, Ted Baxter. “It gives you a warm feeling when you realize athletes are backing off and letting her get off a shot.”
Against the Rams it took a few extra attempts to get that basket for Baxter.
“They went the extra mile and really took care of her, they stopped the clock and the ball was going out of bounds and they gave it to Ashley,” Ted said. “One of the cutest things is I’m driving home with her and she said ‘Dad I think the ref cheated, but I shot it anyway’.”
Brook Baxter, Ashley’s mother, teaches at Ankeny High School, but she got her start with Southeast Polk.
“I student taught when the high school opened in 2010 and I have a close connection in my heart to Southeast Polk,” Brook said. “Before I even started teaching in Ankeny, I subbed a lot at Southeast Polk High School so I love the kids out there.”
Brook is also battling stage four breast cancer, but she doesn’t let that stop her at all.
“I think for me life goes on and so I deal with it so I go and get my chemo and then I just go on with life. It keeps my life normal,” Brook said.
The Southeast Polk girls team sent Brook a plant explaining how happy that they were able to be a part of Ashley’s senior year and wishing Brook the best while recovering from cancer.
“It was special being senior night because it was pretty neat to do that, but quite frankly every time she steps out on that court I am super proud of that girl and her mom is too,” Ted said. “If you were there on Friday and saw the Ankeny side cheering her on and the Southeast Polk side was doing the same thing in the stands.”
“The character of the kids these days is just so amazing with the athletics,” Brook said.
Ted said that because of Ashley’s passion for sports it was nice to see the Rams be competitive but also compassionate.
“If you sat down and talked to my daughter for 10 minutes she would consider you her best friend and she just has that warmth about her. You can talk sports with her for hours and hours,” Ted said.