ORWELL TOWNSHIP -

Northeast Bradford's colors are maroon and gray. But the other night, you saw a lot of blue there.

You had blue T-shirts, blue dress shirts, blue sweatshirts, blue sweaters, blue scarves and blue shoes.

Blue paper basketballs on the gym wall. Blue cake icing around a little boy's mouth.

It was the Northeast girls' basketball team's Blue Out night, held Wednesday during the home game against Liberty. "It's for autism awareness," player Maddy Johnson explained afterward. On Blue Out night, all the money taken in - from admissions, food, donations and more - went to the Bradford and Sullivan counties Special Olympics. Many players and fans wore blue, the color representing autism, and several students who will participate in Special Olympics were recognized. Maddy and teammate Alyssa Coon organized the night for their National Honor Society project.

Special Olympics is a track and field competition for special-needs students. Autism, according to Google, is a developmental disorder affecting social and communication skills.

Alyssa thought Blue Out was "really good" and went smoothly. After the game, junior varsity coach Jessy Schwenk reported the event raised around $1,000, not counting all the food money. "Woooo!" Maddy cheered. "High fives!" Schwenk, who also teaches life skills at Northeast, later reported the final total at $2,133. The money came from donations, a bake sale, raffles, a 50/50 drawing and refreshments, she explained. Elementary students also chipped in by wearing blue to school and giving money. Businesses supporting Blue Out included Northeast Municipal Waste, Kevin Johnson Contracting, the Ferrario Auto Team and Jones Garage, she added.

Before the game, held at the elementary school, members of the Northeast Bradford Special Olympics Team were introduced. They ran between lines formed by the basketball team and onto the court, getting high fives of their own.

Special Olympians honored were: Nikita Wells, in kindergarten; Joshua Ellis, seventh grade; Selena Wickwire, ninth; Daniel Spencer, 12th

Tyler introduced the Northeast basketball players.

"They get to be on top. …They get to run, they get to jump," Maddy said of Special Olympics.

Maddy's a junior, and plans to go into nursing. Alyssa, a senior, plans to study early childhood education and also be certified in special education. She enjoyed seeing the Special Olympians run onto the court, she said, and "Tyler getting to announce."

To prepare for Blue Out, the two did things like sending out letters, making the basketball decorations and posters, setting up the bake sale … and getting a whole bunch of blue socks. The Northeast players ran up and down the court in them. Several Liberty players, too, had on blue headbands. Coaches wore blue, and Schwenk draped a puzzle scarf around her neck. Puzzle pieces are often used as autism symbols."It was fantastic!" Northeast Athletic Director Jim Schmieg said of Blue Out. "I couldn't believe the support they got from the community." The crowd was larger than usual, including people who don't usually attend basketball games. "Everything went really well."

Contributions to the Blue Out project, benefitting Special Olympics, may be sent to Maddy Johnson or Alyssa Coon, at Northeast Bradford High School, Panther Lane, Rome, Pa. 18837.