Adapted Sports Partnerships

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On August 26 and 27, I participated, alongside colleagues and volunteers, in the Bridge II Sports (BIIS) August Madness Wheelchair Basketball Fundraising Event. (The Event title is a play on March Madness when both men and women’s college basketball stage their playoffs to determine who will be the national champions). 

I love basketball.  The fact that I continue to play and coach is a testament to this. Alongside colleagues and volunteers I am a coach for the BIIS (youth wheelchair basketball) PRIDE (Perseverance, Resilience, Integrity, Determination, Empowerment)).  I enjoy reading books about coaching and talking basketball with my father, friends and anyone willing to engage.  

BIIS has been hosting August Madness (AM), a great example of a public-private partnership, since 2011.  Corporate teams consisting primarily of able-bodied people “pay to play” in a wheelchair basketball tournament held at the PNC Arena, a major venue for professional ice hockey, college basketball and concerts.  (PNC donated their space for AM).  Through participating in wheelchair basketball, able-bodied persons and audience members are provided with an opportunity to understand the capabilities of those with a physical disability.

This year we had two teams from GlaxoSmithKline, a global health-care company, MetLife, a global insurance company, Century 21 which is involved with real estate, Van Products a business which specializes in auto equipment for persons with disability and a local police department.  Other teams came from Flow Mini-Cooper, which sells cars, a local radio station and two military teams, as well as, others totaling 15 teams.  Our goal was to have each team raise at least $2500 either through cash and/or in-kind donations, e.g. Flow Mini-Cooper donated $100 for each mini-cooper sold during July-August.  Additionally, as corporations in the US encourage volunteering; many of the event volunteers came from e.g., Wells Fargo Bank.

Participating as All-Stars were a number of wheelchair basketball players and other celebrities, including three former NBA players.  (The Mayor of a local community also participated). The team that raised the most money had the first pick in the AM Draft, which was held at the Durham Bulls baseball stadium on August 26.  Another method used to raise funds, was an on-line auction.  Forty-one items were donated to BIIS, which individuals bid on.  Examples included coveted men’s college basketball tickets, a sports wheelchair, restaurant dinners, autographed college basketballs, jewelry, etc. 

Staging an event is a huge undertaking.  Many hands are required to be successful.  One example was that of the BIIS volunteer Sue Yull, who handled the AM on-line auction.  Sue and her husband Tim are Canadians living in the Triangle Area of North Carolina.  Tim works for MetLife and served on the BIIS board.  Although unable to play due to work obligations, Tim put together a MetLife AM Wheelchair Basketball Team.  Sue spent innumerable hours interacting with BIIS staff to ensure that the auction went smoothly which it did raising approximately $4700. 

While announcing the 37 games, talking to BIIS colleagues and getting feedback from participants, I began to think about further connections that we could make with corporates to develop AM for the future.  At BIIS we set up wheelchair basketball and other adapted sports demonstrations at corporate offices. Establishing friendly corporate competitions could lead to creating further awareness about the capabilities of those with a physical disability and help to remove barriers to participation.   

At our draft a number of BIIS athletes, and one volunteer, from children to adults told their stories and how participating in sport has helped, enrich their lives.  I told a short story about one of the new PRIDE members, a seven-year-old girl.  She came to her first practice on August 24 and was very scared and nervous.  However, by the end of practice she was fully participating and could not wait to come back. 

There is still a long way to go in the US in terms of removing barriers, accessibility and rights.  In Nepal the Government, NGOs and corporate sector must further collaborate in order to get on the road to fully implementing UNCRPD.  As shown by August Madness, sport provide a path for collaboration, removing barriers, having fun and creating greater opportunities for participation for everyBODY!



Position: Director-EveryBODYPlaysNC

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