Jacob Tyree and Allen Champagne are wheelchair athletes; Kellen Smith is a physical therapist with Carilion Clinic. They are affiliated with two new organizations that have formed in recent months— the Wheel Love support group and the Roanoke Stars Wheelchair Basketball team.
According to their Facebook page, the Roanoke Stars team is partnering with the Blue Ridge Independent Living Center— a natural fit— in striving to promote awareness of adaptive sports in Southwestern Virginia.
The team says that although they are an athletic program, they are providing the community and their members with much more than physical fitness. Their program promotes public disability awareness through wheelchair basketball demos at local schools, churches, and hospitals. The Roanoke Stars is transforming the mindset of “can’t do” into “can do.” Through their athletics program they are also providing an outlet for people with disabilities in the region.
The basketball team is also fundraising to help mitigate the costs involved in starting a wheelchair basketball program. Basketball wheelchairs are quite expensive, averaging between $2,500 and $3,000. The organization is hoping to raise enough money to begin purchasing wheelchairs so that new players may have the opportunity to participate in the adaptive sport.
They have joined with the Lancerlot Sports Complex, Invacare medical products, and the Blue Ridge Independent Living Center to organize the “No Dunking Allowed” Wheelchair Basketball Promotional event on July 22 at the Lancerlot in Vinton.
Their goal with the event is to raise the awareness level of individuals with disabilities and the public about the opportunities that exist for those with disabilities, to promote a positive disability awareness, and to eventually transform the way the world views people with disabilities— and also to host a fun event.
At “No Dunking Allowed,” individuals with and without disabilities will have the chance to learn wheelchair basketball basics, to participate in wheelchair basketball skills stations, to play 5 on 5 wheelchair scrimmages, to watch veteran basketball players scrimmage, and to participate in fun challenges with and against top level athletes.
One of the best ways to become acquainted with the challenges of living with a disability is to put yourself in the situation. That’s why the “No Dunking Allowed” organizers are inviting the general public without disabilities to experience wheelchair basketball for themselves and discover it’s definitely not for the fainthearted.
This is an event for all ages. Everyone is welcome to come and watch or participate. Invacare medical equipment supplier is loaning eight basketball wheelchairs to be used at the event. The Charlottesville Cardinals Wheelchair Basketball team is bringing along several more.
Champagne says that the ultimate goal is to form a competitive wheelchair basketball team in the area that can compete on a national level. They want to break the stereotype that individuals in wheelchairs do not participate in athletics, that “folks with significant injuries can still be active.”
The Roanoke Stars team currently practices at Mason’s Cove Elementary on a weekly basis with players coming from across the region to take part. They range in age from 16 to 60-plus. They would like to increase the size of their team. It takes five to scrimmage and sometimes it is necessary for what Champagne calls “an able-bodied” person to be recruited to play from a wheelchair to make up the team.
The organizers chose the Lancerlot for the wheelchair basketball event for two reasons— their floor and their supportive attitude. The facility does not use a hardwood floor, which can be difficult for playing wheelchair ball, and it is well known for its involvement with the community.
Admission to the “No Dunking Allowed” event is free, but the organizers will accept donations. There will also be a bake sale and T-shirt sale to benefit the groups involved. There will be medical product vendors as well.
Invacare became involved as a company that supplies wheelchairs. Champagne says that a basketball wheelchair is significantly different than a regular wheelchair. It is made of a lighter metal— a titanium alloy— and is modified with straps, a bar, and an extra wheel for stability to prevent flipping over. He says wheelchair basketball, while not a contact sport, can be a “brutal sport.”
Worldwide, wheelchair basketball has become very competitive and is growing in popularity.
Wheelchair basketball is different than conventional basketball and is far more of a challenge because you must learn to manipulate the basketball while you are in a seated position the entire game.
Wheelchair basketball retains most major rules and scoring of basketball, maintaining a 10-foot basketball hoop and standard basketball court. Some of the rules are different, such as those for “traveling,” which means the player touches the wheels more than twice after receiving or dribbling the ball. The player must pass, bounce, or shoot the ball before touching the wheels again.
The chair is considered a part of the player. General rules of contact in regular basketball (charging, blocking, etc.) apply to wheelchair basketball. And since the chair is part of the player, the wheelchair athlete is out-of-bounds when any part of the player’s body or wheelchair is outside the boundary.
Champagne says that many individuals do not realize that they are qualified to participate in wheelchair basketball— from those with spinal cord and brain injuries, to those with spina bifida, birth defects, cerebral palsy, surgeries, paralysis due to accidents, amputations and many other disabilities.
Sponsors of the event include Invacare, the Lancerlot Sports Complex, Wheel Love, the Roanoke Stars Wheelchair Basketball Team, and the Blue Ridge Independent Living Center.
Wheel Love is a support group for those impacted by major life events. They have a website in development with information and resources for those with disabilities and their caregivers at www.wheellove.org. The website offers advice on a wide variety of topics including selecting wheelchairs, strengthening exercises, and grief counseling.
More information on the event is available from Tyree at 540-580-0092 or Champagne at 540-765-8500 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The “No Dunking Allowed” event will be held at the Lancerlot on Vinyard Road in Vinton from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, July 22.