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Ryan Hall to host third annual Wheelchair Basketball Tournament

| Thursday, April 12, 2018

This Sunday at 1 p.m., students from all across campus will head to the Bookstore Basketball courts to play and watch a competitive, bracket-style 5-on-5 tournament. If basketball isn’t difficult enough, this event adds another twist — everyone plays in wheelchairs.

Ryan Hall’s signature event, the Wheelchair Basketball Tournament, is rolling into its seventh year.

“It’s like Bookstore Basketball on wheels,” sophomore Caitlyn Clinton, president of Ryan Hall, said.

Photo courtesy of Caitlyn Clinton

Students participate in Ryan Hall’s annual signature event, a Wheelchair Basketball Tournament, in 2017. The event advocates for those with disabilities and has supported Whirlwind Wheelchair International since its inception in 2017.

In 2012, Ryan resident Emily Voorde, who has what is commonly known as brittle bone disease, established the event to help an organization called Whirlwind Wheelchair International. Voorde also played for South Bend’s own wheelchair basketball team, the River City Rollers.

“One of our residents — Emily Voorde — worked really closely with an organization called Whirlwind Wheelchair International, which is an organization that supplies wheelchairs to people who can’t afford them,” Clinton said. “She graduated in 2014, but when she was here as an undergrad she started this event and it kind of spurred out of that, and it’s been going on ever since.”

Ryan Hall has a history of supporting those with disabilities — especially those in wheelchairs — as it was built in 2009 to be the first completely accessible Notre Dame dorm on campus, sophomore Caroline Nassab, co-commissioner of Ryan Hall’s signature event, said.

“The Ryan family had a son who graduated from Notre Dame who had different needs as well, so they wanted there to be a space for people who had different needs too,” Nassab said.

Allyse Gruslin, Ryan Hall rector, said that upon entering her first year as Ryan’s rector last year, she had no idea how big of a deal the event was on campus.

“I didn’t realize how widespread it had gotten on campus and how many teams would be a part of it that weren’t Ryan related,” she said. “It’s shockingly fun to do.”

One hundred percent of the $25 charge for registering a team goes directly to Whirlwind Wheelchair International to benefit other people, Clinton said. Alick’s Home Medical Equipment donates the wheelchairs, and the rest of the money comes out of Ryan’s dorm fund.

“It’s an amazing [event] to go out and it’s great because you get to hang out with your friends but you also support a really great cause … we don’t keep any of the profits for ourselves — that comes out of our dorm fund,” Clinton said. “Everything you are doing is completely benefitting other people and it’s a really motivating cause to get people out there.”

Nassab said it also presents an opportunity to watch the community get together to support a cause.

“The energy is incredible … it’s fun because it’s in the spring and is one of the first times people are outside enjoying the weather, and everyone is out as a community together,” she said.“If it’s outside we will have a lot of games people can play, and there’s free food! We love to say we can get Chick-Fil-A on a Sunday.”

The tournament is not just for fun, as everyone gets into the competition, Clinton said. Their goal this year is to get more people from across campus to sign up and play.

“It’s really competitive … we get everyone from our priests to our residents to play, as well as a bunch of people on West Quad, but we are really looking to target the entire Notre Dame campus this year,” she said. “For someone who is able-bodied, it really makes you think about what other people have to go through to just get around places.”

Gruslin said she thinks Ryan’s Wheelchair Basketball has the potential to be prominent on campus for decades.

“It has the potential to be a really big signature event. … We are a young hall but I think decades down the road Wheelchair Basketball will be a really well-established signature event on campus,” she said. “It really says to all of campus and to the local community that we focus on people’s abilities rather than their disabilities.”

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