Friday, Nov. 8, 2013

UNO Basketball Coach Rappels Benson Tower for Louisiana Special Olympics

UNO Basketball Coach Rappels Benson Tower for Louisiana Special OlympicsHead Coach Mark Slessinger routinely welcomes Special Olympics guests for pre-game festivities.

Spiderman may have a new rival in New Orleans Privateers basketball coach Mark Slessinger, who today will rappel down Benson Tower in downtown New Orleans in support of Louisiana Special Olympics.

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The New Orleans Privateers host their season home opener at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 12.

On Saturday, Nov. 19, the New Orleans Privateers play LSU in Baton Rouge.

The New Orleans Privateers play against nationally ranked Boise State at 11 a.m. at Lakefront Arena on Saturday, Nov. 23. The game will be preceded by a fundraising event Pancakes and Privateers and will be televised on CST.

The 25-story Benson Tower is a 265-foot high-rise building across the street from the Louisiana Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Thirty New Orleanians strapped in harnesses will at 1 p.m. scale down the side of the building. Slessinger, who has never rappelled, expects the adventure to be an exciting one and once he gets his bearings, plans to stop and look out at the view.

"It will be a little scary but it's an exciting thing to do," said Slessinger. "It was such a good opportunity to help raise awareness for what Louisiana Special Olympics is trying to do...and to help raise awareness, in general."

Slessinger, who signed on as the New Orleans' Privateers men's basketball coach in November 2012, will make his heart-racing journey flanked by two friends: Jessica Rauch, who will raise funds in the name of her brother Eric and Lori Guichard, mother of twins Joseph and Matthew. The beloved Guichard Twins and Eric are all well-known figures on the University of New Orleans campus.

Slessinger, a well-spoken supporter of Special Olympics who began working with the organization while in college, has introduced more than 50 children to the University community as Sless's Stars.

In a new team protocol for all home games at Lakefront Arena, Coach brings a Special Olympian to stand with him on the courts, hand over heart, during the National Anthem at all home games at Lakefront Arena. Team proThe men's basketball team has hosted four basketball clinics for Louisiana Special Olympics over the past two years. More than 50 children have participated.

"It's been really great to see these kids grow not only as basketball players but in their social interactions and their tasks. They're undefeated against us," said Slessinger. "They're 80 and 70 about this point. Mostly last-second victories."

The Over the Edge program raises money for the Special Olympics in Louisiana. Slessinger, Rauch and Guichard each had to raise a minimum of $1,000 to participate. Now the three have collected the most donations among the 30 New Orleanians participating in the challenge.

Slessinger, a well-known figure in New Orleans, has raised more than $3,000.

"Our basketball program has benefited so much from having the incredible opportunity to work with these courageous athletes," said Slessinger on his Over the Edge donations webpage. "The Special Olympics works very hard to create extraordinary environments for these athletes to grow as people, teammates and athletically, and their cause is dear to me."

Slessinger has been a well-spoken supporter for the Special Olympics and he and the Privateers even welcomed Special Olympians for a basketball clinic at the Lakefront Arena in September. The Over the Edge event on Friday is another way that Slessinger continues to reach out to the community outside the basketball court.

"I will rappel from the tower to help show my support for these awesome athletes that I am blessed to coach and work with," said Slessinger on his page. "Being able to be a small part of this wonderful project is humbling and a great honor that I hope you can be a part of too."

Privateer athletes, a cousin from out of town and his family will be among the fans who watch him this afternoon. Toni Slessinger, an admissions counselor in the UNO Office of Enrollment Management, will be there to cheer on her husband.

"She said that she thinks I'm crazy and that I must really love these kids," Slessinger said.


Support Sless and Special Olympics!

Find more information or make a donation on the Louisiana Special Olympics website.

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