Ryan Hall hosts signature Wheelchair Basketball Tournament
Selena Ponio | Friday, April 7, 2017
Members of the Notre Dame community will head to the Bookstore Courts this Sunday at noon to play basketball with a twist — they will all be playing in wheelchairs.
Ryan Hall is hosting the sixth annual Wheelchair Basketball Tournament, their signature event benefitting Whirlwind Wheelchair International, an organization that provides wheelchairs to those who need them but cannot afford them. Senior Christina Fernandez, last year’s president of Ryan Hall, said she has been involved in planning wheelchair basketball since her freshman year.
“ … Mr. and Mrs. Ryan have a son named Corbett, who went to Notre Dame but had a disability,” Fernandez said. “The reason they built Ryan Hall was because they wanted to make a handicap-accessible dorm.”
The fact that Ryan Hall is a handicap-accessible dorm is something their community is proud of, Fernandez said, and there was a lot of intentionality with how Ryan was built — from the type of carpet chosen to the wheelchair ramp going up to the altar in the dorm’s chapel.
Caitlyn Clinton, freshman and incoming Ryan Hall president for the 2017-2018 academic year, said this event has been a huge success in the past.
“It’s a great way to be competitive, but still give back to the community and give back to those who cannot afford something they need,” Clinton said.
This year will be Clinton’s first year playing in the tournament, and she said she encourages everyone to participate, regardless of athletic ability.
“I am awful at basketball,” she said. “I can’t even play basketball standing on my two legs, let alone in a wheelchair.”
The event provides an opportunity for participants to view the sport from a different perspective, Fernandez said.
“Wheelchair basketball kind of puts everybody on an equal playing field,” she said. “And at the end of the day it’s the same game, same rules just on wheels. You’re angled differently to shoot … but you have a team, and it’s a great opportunity to look silly but have fun and join together to support a really good cause.”
Each game is five-on-five with two rolls of the wheelchair for one dribble. It is a bracket style tournament with free Chik-Fil-A available during the event, and students can register teams of five for $25 on the online Student Shop. The first year it started, Fernandez said, 16 teams participated. Last year, 70 teams registered.
The event was started by Emily Voorde, a member of the Notre Dame class of 2015 who was in a wheelchair, Fernandez said, and last year was the first time Ryan Hall put on the event without her.
“Last year was a unique opportunity because we had the opportunity to push forward the event and carry on her legacy,” Fernandez said. “The games are short, but they are so much fun and it is so much harder than expected. It’s a great opportunity to bring campus together.”