SPECIAL REPORT: Wheelchair basketball helping physically disabled enjoy sports

Published: May. 8, 2018 at 3:51 PM CDT
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Bowling Green Parks and recreation has started offering wheelchair basketball opportunities for physically disabled people and folks around the community.

Parks and Rec was able to offer this program because of a grant from the state that allowed them to purchase wheelchairs and other needed equipment.

The sport, new to Bowling Green is already making an impact on everyone involved. It's proving that those who are physically disabled are capable of so much.

"There's a can beyond the can't, and there's ability beyond the disability," says Cameron Levis, Special Populations Instructor for Bowling Green Parks and Rec.

Levis helped kickstart wheelchair basketball in Bowling Green. He says this is a special opportunity for the community's physically disabled population.

"Despite the fact that, you know, an individual might be in a chair, they can play sport they just do it in a different way," Levis says. "I think that's enlightening for people to learn that for the first time,"

Maddie Duncan is one of those that has taken advantage of wheelchair basketball. It was five years ago when she was diagnosed with transverse myelitis.

"I woke up one morning fine, and within an hour and a half I was paralyzed from the waist down," Duncan recalls.

Maddie says playing this sport with her peers allows her to feel like her disability disappears.

"We're all the same, even though some of us have a disability and some of us don't, we're all equal," she says.

Even just an hour a week, this sport is sending a big message to the community.

"We are more than our disability, and more than just people that sit at home and do nothing," Duncan says. "We can get out and be active, and we can have fun,"

Being active is still essential even for those with disabilities. Wheelchair basketball helps promote the important of exercising even with disabilities.

"Because they have a disability, they have a different motor learning program that they use than I would use or that you would use," says Ariel Tomes, an exercise science student at WKU. "I think that building those motor pathways and getting them out there with other people who want to exercise too, is just beneficial all around,"

Tomes is an exercise science student at Western Kentucky University who comes to play on Monday nights. She's one of the many without a physical disability who enjoys the sport. But another goal for this group is to get more disabled people in the community to join them.

"We want to identify individuals in the community that have those eligible disabilities that could play competitively and be a part of our program and really pursue sport like all of us enjoy," Levis adds.

Giving those with physical disabilities an opportunity to enjoy sports and forget that they're different from anyone else... makes the one hour per week so worth it.

"All of us love sports and all of us love rec, and to give them an opportunity to kind of capture that part of their life despite that disability, it's awesome to be able to do," Levis says.

Wheeelchair basketball is offered on Monday Night's at the Kummer Little Center in Bowling Green from 4-5 p.m. Everyone is encouraged to participate.