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Ryan Hall to host Wheelchair Basketball Tournament

| Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Ryan Hall will host the fifth annual Wheelchair Basketball Tournament, one of the hall’s signature events, this Sunday

Junior Christina Fernandez said she hopes to see the bracket-style tournament continue to grow in terms of participation this year.

“[Wheelchair basketball] started in 2012 with only 18 teams registered and last year, in its fourth year, we had over 70 teams registered,” Fernandez, the former Ryan Hall president, said in an email. “We’re hoping that in its fifth year, the tournament will be bigger and better than ever.”

This tournament connects to the sentiment behind the Ryan family’s donation of Ryan Hall, Fernandez said.

“The Ryan family chose to donate our hall because of a special connection to individuals with disabilities through their son, Corbett,” she said. “Despite his physical disabilities, Corbett Ryan graduated from Notre Dame and lived on campus during his time here. This led the Ryan family to donate funds for a fully handicap-accessible hall so that all students, regardless of ability, would have their needs met.”

Fernandez said the event was started by Emily Voorde, a 2015 Notre Dame graduate who lived in Ryan Hall and had brittle bone disease. Fernandez said Voorde always said wheelchair basketball was not all that different from regular basketball — it’s just played on wheels.

“[Voorde] knew this would be an amazing event that captured the spirit of Ryan Hall,” Fernandez said. “Wheelchair basketball brings athletes with and without physical disabilities together to level the playing field while creating an environment of inclusion.”

Sophomore Grace Weissend said in an email the event’s accessibility makes it enjoyable for everyone who participates.

“Wheelchair basketball is especially fun because it sort of levels the playing field for everybody out on the court,” Weissend said. “If you think you’ve got game, wait until you try and get that layup after rolling down the court in your wheelchair. Everyone comes out to have a great time, and we love watching everyone laugh and shoot hoops. … I hope that everyone who participates comes away from the experience feeling humbled by their — probable — lack of game on wheels, full from all of the free Chick-fil-a and fulfilled knowing that they contributed to an incredibly impactful organization.”

Fernandez said all funds raised from the $25 signup cost for each team of five players would benefit Whirlwind Wheelchair International.

“Whirlwind Wheelchair International is a nonprofit social enterprise that provides individually-catered wheelchairs to those who need them,” she said. “Given that Ryan Hall is the most handicap-accessible hall and was built to provide this residence hall experience to all who need it, Whirlwind Wheelchair International’s mission to make it possible for every person in the world who needs a high-quality wheelchair to obtain one really struck a cord with us.”

Sophomore Emily Casey saidhosting this tournament to support Whirlwind Wheelchair International is a top priority for the hall.

“Whirlwind Wheelchair is a cause that is very near and dear to our hearts,” Casey said in an email. “Whirlwind was able to provide 45,000 wheelchairs to those in need between 2008 and 2014 and continues to produce 15,000 a year. Their efforts are made possible through generous donations and we want to help as much as we can.”

Freshman Grace Seibert said she values the chance to make a difference with her dorm.

“It’s important for me to find a way to give back in any way I can, and this is a great way to give back, gain perspective and work with my fellow Wildcats,” Seibert said in an email. “I hope students leave with an understanding of how challenging it is to be in a wheelchair [and] become more aware of Whirlwind Wheelchair International. It’s an amazing organization and cause. The wheelchairs this organization provides change people’s lives.”

Seibert said she is excited about the opportunity the tournament provides for a new experience.

“Wheelchair basketball is super fun to play and not something you have the chance to do every day,” Seibert said. “Additionally, you get to put yourself in the shoes of someone who actually needs a wheelchair and know that the money you are helping raise goes towards durable, sustainable wheelchairs for people that couldn’t otherwise have them.”

Weissend said she appreciates the charitable side of the event as well as the community-building aspects.

“I chose to work on Wheelchair partly because it’s one of our Ryan Hall signature events, but more importantly because it supports such a fantastic and important cause,” Weissend said. “I love that Wheelchair Basketball brings together groups of friends on their respective teams and all the participants in the tournament bracket while allowing everyone involved to be connected to the global community through Whirlwind Wheelchair International. The event has a very communal feel to it, and that’s really special.”

Sophomore Vanessa Acosta said there will be other activities and competitions in addition to the bracket tournament to entertain participants.

“Wheelchair Basketball is my favorite Ryan Hall event because it’s for a good cause and it’s fun,” Acosta said in an email. “We’ll have a contest going for the most creative team name. Lots of teams coordinate outfits for it, so this is a great way to show some spirit with your friends. We’ll have lawn games set up so you can play while you wait for your turn on the court.”

Casey said students can sign up their teams through a Google form on the event’s Facebook page or on the Student Shop website.

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About Courtney Becker

Courtney is a sophomore majoring in film, television and theater from New York City and currently serving as News Editor. She is a proud resident of Pasquerilla West Hall and a die-hard Pittsburgh Steelers fan.

Contact Courtney