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Hall puts wheels on the court

Meg Handelman | Friday, April 12, 2013

The wildcats of Ryan Hall will continue their history of supporting people with disabilities Sunday during their second annual Wheelchair Basketball Tournament.

Sophomore Emily Voorde, who founded the event last year, said the five-on-five tournament is open to all undergraduate students and registration costs $25 per team. The tournament promotes disability awareness on campus and raises funds for the Wheelchair Foundation, she said.

Junior Ali Quinn, co-planner of the event, said the Wheelchair Foundation is an international organization that provides wheelchairs to people with disabilities who cannot afford them. She said for every $150 raised, the foundation will be able to provide one chair to a person in need. 

Through the Wheelchair Foundation, Ryan Hall can provide one wheelchair for every six teams that participate in the tournament, Voorde said. The chairs provided by the Wheelchair Foundation often enable people to participate in school or professional occupations when they otherwise would not be able to do so, she said. 

“In some countries, children are unable to attend school and adults are unable to attend work, simply because they are physically unable without access to a chair,” Voorde said. “Providing chairs to over 152 countries, including the [United States], the Wheelchair Foundation truly does fantastic work.”

Voorde said the most important aspect of the tournament for her is helping at least one person access a needed wheelchair.

“Even if we only help one person, that is enough for me,” Voorde said. “Everything becomes worthwhile.”

Quinn said the Wheelchair Basketball Tournament holds special importance for the completely handicap-accessible hall she calls home. Corbett Ryan, a Notre Dame alumnus and a member of the family that funded construction of Ryan Hall, relies on assistance from a wheelchair and a walker. 

Corbett Ryan aimed to build a completely accessible dorm, Quinn said. Accordingly, Ryan Hall has two elevators, wide hallways and accessible rooms.

“Emily [Voorde] came up with the [wheelchair basketball] event idea last year,” Quinn said. “It fit right into the spirit of the dorm and why it was built: to be accessible for everyone. It is a unique event but holds immense importance to the history of the dorm as well.”

Aiding people with disabilities is a personal cause for Voorde, who was born with Osteogenesis imperfecta, or brittle bone disease, and has relied on a manual wheelchair since birth. She said she is a wheelchair basketball player and enjoys the game for the competitive aspect and the friendships it fosters.

“I began casually playing wheelchair basketball with a local team about eight years ago,” Voorde said. “I immediately loved the game because it allowed me to remain athletically competitive while bonding with other individuals in chairs. Wheelchair basketball is not all that different from able-bodied basketball: same rules, same game, just on wheels.”

Voorde said Ryan’s tournament is especially exciting because anyone can participate, disabled or not.

“The beauty about able-bodied, wheelchair basketball is that everyone is suddenly on the same playing field,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re athletic or not, everyone has to learn to adapt.” 

Voorde and Quinn said they hope to register 32 teams for the tournament, which is 14 more teams than participated last year. Quinn said registration for the tournament ends today.