Wellman hosts wheelchair basketball charity event

By TJ Rhodes
Posted 3/15/23

Hands were taped from the strain of pushing a wheelchair in the heat of a basketball game. But there was nothing but smiles from the people playing in the Wellman Parkside Center. That’s …

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Wellman hosts wheelchair basketball charity event


Hands were taped from the strain of pushing a wheelchair in the heat of a basketball game. But there was nothing but smiles from the people playing in the Wellman Parkside Center. That’s because they were there for a good cause, supporting the Adaptive Sports Iowa (ASI) wheelchair basketball program with a fundraiser basketball tournament along with food and silent auctions/raffles. The event, held on Mar. 11, was a success. It was organized by Dixie Conrad and Shelli Stafford. 

Some of the ASI Grizzlies attended this event, a wheelchair basketball team filled with seven players spanning six cities in Iowa. Representing Wellman was Mid-Prairie sophomore, Jayden Stafford. 

The Grizzlies refereed games in the tourney before getting a chance to play the winners, winning the exhibition game 35-22. The Grizzlies did not hold back from showing the amateurs how it’s done by crashing into their chairs, knocking them to the ground and rolling away with the big lead in the second half after some friendly smack-talk motivated them. 

The Grizzlies will be representing Iowa at the National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA) Nationals Invitational in Wichita, Kansas, between Mar. 24-26.

Stafford is a manager for the Mid-Prairie basketball team and has been playing wheelchair basketball for some time. He enjoyed his time at the tourneys. 

“For me, it’s enjoyable seeing like, all the people, seeing what your sport is about and seeing that it’s not what other people think of, just pushing really slow up the court,” Stafford said. “It shows the community what I do in my free time and what I want to do with my life.”

Stafford is an advocate for adaptive sports for those with disabilities because nothing should hold them back from accomplishing their dreams. 

“Just because you have a disability doesn’t mean you can’t go out and compete at the same level [as an] NFL or NBA type person would,” Stafford said. “There’s still D1 athletes, there’s still D2 athletes, there’s still college athletes, there’s people playing overseas right now to compete for the number one spot in the entire world [with disabilities].”

Anyone could form a team and experience basketball in a wheelchair with teams formed up to five people. Entry was $25 per person. If someone did not want to play, they could just donate to the cause. Some community members like Daren Lambert, head coach for the Mid-Prairie Golden Hawks boys’ team, was seen at the event in support. Lambert, playing in the tourney until the end.

“This is the second time I’ve done it. It’s just as fun as the first time. It’s a great experience and like I said, it goes to a good cause, so, it’s easy to do,” Lambert said. 

Lambert felt the brunt of the sport by having sore shoulders and wrapped fingers. It is a tough game to jump into. He felt the games against other amateurs were much easier than the game against the Grizzlies.

“[The Grizzlies are] fast. They fly up and down the court,” Lambert said. “If they don’t want you to move, they can literally stop you whenever they want.” 

Josh Anderson attended this event as someone who is relatively new to wheelchair basketball but was encouraged to play by Conrad and others. In his games, he moved quick and seemed to have a good grasp for how the game is played. He thinks he might continue to play in the future.

“It’s really tiring and really takes skill. I thought it was going to be easy at first, but it was really hard,” Anderson said. “[I’m] just having fun, you know, working with my teammates, I’ve been building up the chemistry.”

Events like this are great to showcase adaptive sports for those with disabilities. It can help students get scholarships for college and continue playing the sports they love. 

Some other programs ASI offers are sled hockey, track & field, tennis, beep baseball and cycling, to list a few. They provide a fun way for those with disabilities to still enjoy sports and are always looking for more participants.