|A participant in last year's Wheelchair Basketball game|
In commemoration of National Disability Awareness Month, Cuyamaca College will host its 15th annual Wheelchair Basketball Game from noon to 1 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 31, this year preceded by a resource fair with nearly a dozen services and agencies for people with disabilities.
Both the game and fair, scheduled for 11:30 a.m. outside the gym, are free and open to the public. Anyone interested in playing is invited to join in. The five-on-five games typically feature a mix of Cuyamaca’s basketball team playing alongside wheelchair basketball team players from throughout the county. With all players shooting and dribbling from the low-to-the-ground, highly maneuverable wheelchairs, tumbles and spills are always as much a part of the rousing action as the pivoting and spinning of custom-built chairs across the gym floor.
The teams are mixed so that the wheelchair league athletes don’t completely dominate the scoreboard, said Mary Asher-Fitzpatrick, a DSPS learning disabilities specialist. In addition to wheelchair athletes who have played in the past, this year’s wheelchair athletes include members of the San Diego Hammer, a team sponsored by the San Diego Adaptive Sports Foundation, one of the agencies taking part in the resource fair.
Other participants in the fair include the San Diego Braille Institute; the state Department of Rehabilitation; the San Diego Brain Injury Foundation; the San Diego Autism Society; Disabled Students Programs and Services at Cuyamaca College; and Club Abled, a campus club that supports students with disabilities.
“The dynamics of this event are huge,” Asher said. “It’s a transformation of minds, attitudes, and ways of thinking. It’s created increased awareness, respect and camaraderie among diverse athletes, faculty, staff, administrators and community spectators. Everyone participating is transformed.”
Rob Wojtkowski, coach of the Cuyamaca College men’s basketball team, said the event garners new respect among his players for the talent and ability of the wheelchair athletes.
“I love what his event does for all the players,” he said. “Wheelchair athletes from the former San Diego Xpress team continue to come every year, all the way back to when the game began 15 years ago.”
This year’s game will be the first to be approved by the Cuyamaca College Academic Senate as a College Hour event. Such events are developed for educational enrichment and instructors are encouraged to release their classes so students can attend.
This year’s event will also feature:
· A photo archive of past games
· A disabilities awareness display on both levels of the Learning Resource Center
· Appetizers and Halloween candy
· Prizes, including movie tickets, backpacks, food coupons and vendor gift cards
· Free luncheon for game participants, event sponsors and organizers
Event sponsors are the Cuyamaca College Associated Student Government; Disabled Students Programs and Services; athletics; Club ABLED; the learning resource center and Cuyamaca instructor Jim Hannibal.