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A Basketball Legend

November 04, 2011

John Moreau has refereed at countless NCAA tournaments and Olympic trials.  He has been on the court with basketball super-stars like Michael Jordan, David Thompson, Larry Bird, and Magic Johnson. Coach Jimmy Valvano affectionately called Moreau “Papa John.”

Professional basketball referee John Moreau poses on basketball court.

Over two decades ago, John Moreau came to Special Olympics to help out at a basketball event and  "the rest is history."

But for John Moreau, many of these brushes with basketball greats pale when compared with experiences at Special Olympics. The Special Olympics experiences truly touched his heart. Moreau says refereeing those games has led to the most meaningful, powerful and rewarding experiences in his officiating career.  


Professional basketball referee John Moreau poses with Special Olympics athletes on tennis court.

John Moreau considers himself very blessed to have both college and Special Olympics experiences and over the years there have been many memorable moments.

Hooked More than 20 Years Ago

Over two decades ago John came to help out at a basketball event and the rest, as they say, is history. He explains, “once you get involved as a volunteer, you are hooked in a wonderful way, asking what can I do next?” Although he admits that in refereeing Special Olympics games he has to be a little more flexible and understanding, at times almost playing a role of a coach on the floor, he sure isn’t ignoring traveling.  

Being attentive to special needs and relating to athletes and their families isn't much of a stretch for Moreau.  His own mother was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease when John was just 6.  He says the experience “made me stronger, the way I look at people, whether they are challenged or not.”  Adding, “That’s what’s so wonderful about Special Olympics, it’s inclusive.  Families provide care giving, 24/7, they are considered the heroes.”


More than Sports

“What most people don’t realize is Special Olympics is about more than sports,” he says.  “It’s about you, and me.  It’s about changing people’s minds and attitudes about people with intellectual disabilities.  It’s about being more inclusive as a society.  It’s not about what people can’t do, but what they can.”

John considers himself very blessed to have both college and Special Olympics experiences and over the years there have been many memorable moments. He says “some of the most amazing athletes I’ve seen are Special Olympics athletes.”  He recalls the determination of one athlete who played exceptionally well with only one leg – and no prosthesis. “The athlete literally hopped during the game and was one of the main playmakers for his team during the entire competition.”  After the tournament concluded, through Special Olympics, several generous donors and physicians provided this athlete with a prosthesis.

Next Stop, Athens

John adds that Special Olympics “made me a better person.” He wishes to give everyone an opportunity to get involved by coming to events and cheering.  “While people with intellectual disabilities may appear different to some, we all have the same heart,” Moreau noted.  “It doesn’t get any better than this.  Come see for yourself.”

What’s next for John Moreau?  John plans to continue his involvement with Special Olympics athletes and families and is heading to this year’s Special Olympics World Summer Games in Athens to referee basketball.

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