Blake Rouen loves music and basketball, and most of all, having fun.
The Moorestown seventh-grader, who has autism, has been able to combine all of those things, thanks to a friendship he’s formed with his hometown high school’s basketball team. The Moorestown players, in turn, have benefited greatly from their connection with Blake.
“It’s great to see the players embrace him and make him part of our team,” Moorestown coach Shawn Anstey said. “He’s a great kid, he’s got a love for basketball, a love for music and he has a lot of positive energy. I’m glad we’re giving him the chance to display his skills, and to support him. It’s also great for the team to be around him. It’s been a great thing for everybody.”
Anstey has known Blake for a quite awhile, since he was his physical education teacher in fourth, fifth and sixth grades at Upper Elementary School.
Blake’s school aide, Sue Calhoun, knowing his passion for music and basketball, recently went to Anstey with the idea of introducing him to the team. In very quick time, a special bond was created.
Blake first showed off his DJ skills during a win against Trenton Catholic on Feb. 3. He was back the next night for a victory over Washington Township. And two days after that, he was playing tunes during another Moorestown win, this time over Willingboro. At the end of each game, the team runs from the handshake line toward their special fan in his corner of the gym, chanting “Go Blake, Go Blake,” as they make their way toward him. After the players reach Blake, they mob him and exchange fist bumps. When that happens, it’s hard to tell who is more excited - the team or Blake.
“He brings a lot of energy,” said Moorestown player Max Martin. “Coach brought him in to practice one day to meet us, and we hit it off right away. At first, I didn’t know if it was actually him doing it, or maybe it was a just a mix, because it sounded so good, but it was him. He knows what he’s doing. He’s really talented. It’s been a fun season, and it’s gotten even better with him around.”
That’s just what Calhoun had in mind when she approached Anstey with the idea of Blake meeting the Quakers’ players. Sure it would be great for youngster. But the experience would also be a good one for the players as well. As an added bonus, his popularity has also extended to kids his own age. At the Willingboro game, a bunch of classmates sat in the bleachers near his spot. They seemed just as interested in Blake’s DJ work as they were in Moorestown’s play on the court.
“This is so good for everybody,” Calhoun said. “And it’s so natural. Nobody had to talk to these kids. They met him and just embraced what an amazing kid he is, and they love him.”
The players have welcomed Blake so much that after he plays his music and warms up the crowd, once the pre-game clock hits 0:00, he runs over to the bench, and is the first Quaker introduced during the announcement of the starting lineups. He then fist bumps the officials and opposing coach and runs back over to his turntable equipment with a massive smile on his face.
“I love it,” Blake said. “I like to watch basketball and, they’ve been friends.”
Blake’s interest in being a DJ began five years ago, when he attended a school fundraiser with his parents, Gregory and Polly. An obstacle course set up as an activity was a bit of a challenge, but there was also a DJ on hand to entertain. Blake took an immediate interest in his work, and the rest is history. But not only that, the DJ from that day has offered advice and been a friend ever since, which shows the impression that Blake makes on people.
“This is a wonderful opportunity,” his mom said. “He loves basketball, he loves music and he’s got it all together in one place. He just wants to make people happy through music.”
All in all, it’s evolved into an incredible extension of the learning experience for all of the students involved, from Blake to the members on the team.
“He’s added positive energy to the gym, the team and the community,” said Shawn Counard, the athletic director at Moorestown. “He’s been here three games now and it keeps getting better and better. The team has really embraced him and Coach Anstey has done a great job getting everyone involved. Everyone just loves having him here, he’s so positive, and he’s great at what he does. Sports are supposed to be positive, and having someone like Blake around is what you ask for. He’s what it’s all about.”