Ink Out Loud: A grand show of support |

Ink Out Loud: A grand show of support

Let’s do this. Let’s show support for a high school student with spirit and athletic ability.

On Saturday morning, the sports editor from my former newspaper, the Lake County Record-Bee, Brian Sumpter, called me and told me the story of Michael Kelley.

Michael has Down syndrome and autism. He is not a varsity athlete. He does participate in extra-curricular special needs basketball at Wichita East High School in Wichita, Kan.

The trouble began when Michael’s adoptive mother, Jolinda Kelley, bought him a letterman jacket after he was recognized for playing basketball. Michael proudly wore the jacket to his to school until he was told to take it off. He was given a girl’s sweatshirt to wear instead, news reports stated.

The high school principal said a parent complained and that Michael was not a real varsity athlete. “We have considered (allowing special needs students to wear varsity letters) and our decision was no,” Principal Ken Thiessen said. “That is not appropriate … because it is not a varsity-level competition,” he told Channel 6 news.

In response to this disgusting display brought forth by a parent and enforced by the leader of educators and youth at Wichita East High School, Sumpter began a campaign to collect 1,000 block letters from high schools around the country. Sumpter wants to let Michael know that he is a real athlete and he deserves to take pride in his tremendous accomplishments.

The following is Sumpter’s call to action: “Michael Kelley is a Down syndrome athlete at Wichita East High School in Wichita, Kan. He was told by his principal he was not entitled to wear a school letter on his letterman jacket because he has not played a varsity sport. A parent at the school allegedly complained that Kelley’s actions were not fair to those athletes who had earned varsity letters. This is ridiculous and I am not standing for it. I can’t get Michael a letter to his own high school, but I can get him letters from other high schools and make sure he gets them all. Please share this post. If you have contacts at other high schools around the country, spread the word we want a letter from their school to send to Michael. They can contact me on Facebook for mailing instructions on where to send the block letters. I’ll collect them and make a mass mailing to Wichita. Let’s send this kid 1, 000 letters. HIgh school ADs and coaches, let me know if you can get a block letter from your school.”

Please mail block letters to Lake County Record-Bee Sports Editor Brian Sumpter at 2150 S. Main St., Lakeport, Calif. 95453. For more information, call 707-263-5636.

Mandy Feder is the Managing Editor of the Tahoe Dail Tribune. She can be reached at 530-542-8006 or at

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