Posted: Feb 23, 2013 3:51 PM by Laura Wilson - KAJ News
Updated: Feb 23, 2013 8:52 PM
KALISPELL - Hundreds of fans turn up every Friday night for the Flathead braves games...but one fan has quite a history with the team.
The movie "Radio" shared the true story of a mentally handicapped man who became a beloved and well-known sports fan at a South Carolina high school, as well as an inspiration to his community.
Flathead High School has its own inspiring figure: Ollie.
For about 20 years, longtime Kalispell resident Oliver "Ollie" Delatore has been attending Braves football and basketball practices--offering players everything from cups of water to game time motivation.
"In the movie itself, the coaches were such a huge support. And they've been that way for my brother here as well. I've used the same story to explain what he does to other people,"Ollie's sister, Cassie Sunnell, said.
"That's probably been the best relation that you can actually connect to what he does and who he is and how everyone supports him. The Valley has been welcoming and they love him and it's wonderful that he has that sense of place," she added.
Ollie has never let his disability stand in the way of being what many describe as a Braves "superfan."
"His brain level basically stopped at sixth grade, so he has a reading and writing level that stopped there--but his affection for sports, people, family, and friends continues to grow," Sunnell said. "He's just well-loved by everyone who comes into contact with him.
Braves boys basketball head coach Fred Febach said, "The kids enjoy having him and I know he really enjoys being here. So, it's been really great to have him here. He's been a faithful fan and roots like crazy for the Braves. It's great to have him around, it would be strange to not have him here."
Ollie's true colors have always been black and orange. The 34-year-old graduated FHS in 1998, and has been supporting players from the sideline and the bench since he was in high school.
"I normally help with water and towels," Ollie said.
But players say Ollie has offered them much more than that over the years.
"He really gives us something to play for," said Matt Tokarz, who plays football and basketball. "When he gets excited, or mad at different calls, it picks up our intensity and makes us want to play harder."
Braves head football coach Russell McCarvel said, "He has an emotional connection to the Braves, without a doubt. If things are going well, Ollie's happy. He takes our wins and losses to heart."
Ollie recalls one of his favorite sports moments, which happened last fall, during the Braves final football games of the season, when they threw the game-winning touchdown right as time expired. It was the team's only win of the season, but it was a moment Ollie will never forget.
"It's almost like he was playing the game himself," Sunnell said. "That's the reason why he gets up every day because there's a game going on. He has to go support them. He needs to go be there to root them on so they can win. It's huge."
"We've taken him in and really accepted him. He's a cool guy. We love him and we all think of him as as good friend," Tokarz said.
Ollie says his involvement with Flathead sports has given him more than he could have ever asked for. What keeps him coming back every season? "My friends," he said.
There may not be a major motion picture based on him, but Ollie has done something that most others have not by reaching out and inspiring an entire community--for 20 years, and counting.