For as long as Doug Branscombe can remember, his daughter Natalie has always been happiest with a basketball in her hand.
Finding a team environment that made his daughter feel welcome, however, was a challenge.
“Part of Natalie’s challenge with being involved in regular sport was she was always a part of the teams but there was never the personal connections,” Branscombe said.
Born with a learning disability, Natalie had a burning desire to play basketball but says she never felt like she fit in, until she joined Special Olympics.
“When I played regular sport I was an outsider – when I play in Special Olympics, all I’ve been is myself,” she said.
She’s been a Special Olympics athlete for 10 years but when she first joined, basketball wasn’t a part of the Nova Scotia programs.
So her father decided to spearhead the beginning of the program.
“He’s the one that taught me the game and got me involved with it. He’s the one that started the program – because of me and because of the other athletes too and he just… he just loves me so much, I love him so much,” she said.
The duo are about to embark on a weekend dream trip to Toronto where they’ll be attending the NBA All-Star Game and they won’t just be watching.
WATCH: Natalie Branscombe speaks to Global News about her experience at the NBA All-Star Game
Natalie was the only female Special Olympics athlete selected from North America to play in the NBA Cares Special Olympics Unified Sports Basketball Game.
She’ll be one of 12 Special Olympics athletes teamed up with NBA and WNBA legends to battle it out in a 40-minute game.
The coaches she’ll be learning from are former NBA All-Stars themselves.
“Yao Ming is going to be there and Steve Nash – legends that I’ve looked up to for most of my life, actually all of my life,” she said.
An amazing opportunity for an athlete who’s overcome barriers to play the sport she loves.
“For me it’s not about the disability, it’s all about my ability.”