Interview with Dan Altan, Wheelchair Athletes Worldwide

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Dan Altan, is President of Wheelchair Athletes Worldwide (WAW) a small American NGO  dedicated to enhancing the lives of individuals with physical disabilities through the donation of sports wheelchairs and the demonstration of wheelchair basketball by accomplished disabled athletes.  The goal of WAW is to promote self-esteem, social and sport development, and hope through involvement in wheelchair basketball and other wheelchair sports.  Donations are primarily distributed in countries where limited or no support is available for wheelchair sports.

In early 2011, when I was visiting the States, I had the honor to connect with Dan and WAW through a mutual friend Vicky Sigworth and was involved in helping to facilitate the first two projects in India and Nepal.  This is a bit of Dan’s story about growing up with polio and becoming an athlete.

“I was fortunate enough to have family that treated me as they did each other, meaning that there was no special treatment for my disability. I was expected to do what we as a family did, and what the other siblings were expected to do. There was hardly any special conversation or attention devoted to my disability. There was the regular and occasional looks/comments/taunts from kids during my entire childhood but considering all things, I don't think it was as bad as it could have been.  Some of this might have  been due to the fact that I was a male, stronger than the average, capable of doing most things, and I never asked for special treatment.”

Around the age of 15 Dan discovered the sport of wheelchair basketball and was almost instantly drawn to it. Prior to that he had done some disabled swimming.

“Along with basketball, I've participated in adaptive swimming, wheelchair racing, and weightlifting. Although I was better than average in all of those activities, I never rose to the "elite" level of competition. For me the enjoyment was in the challenge and pleasure of competing.”

“WAW was started in conjunction with other people because we wanted to help people in less fortunate parts of the world to benefit, or increase their benefit, from involvement in disabled sports by donating some sport (basketball) wheelchairs and conduct a demonstration "clinic". WAW hopes to raise sufficient funds to obtain/acquire/ship the wheelchairs and send a couple of accomplished athletes to conduct the clinics in a country in need of such assistance.”

“WAW’s  first project was in India in November of New Delhi and in Visakhapatnam.....where WAW donated 12 sport chairs to two different NGO's (Amar Jyoti in New Delhi and The Ability People in Vizag). The hope is that the donation of the sport wheelchairs would further advance the development/enjoyment/benefit of the adaptive sport program within each NGO.

 The second Project was in Nepal in May of Kathmandu....where WAW donated 11 sport chairs to the Nepal Wheelchair Rugby Association in Kathmandu. The hope is that the donation of the wheelchairs, along with the three day clinic, would further advance the existing adaptive sports program within the Kathmandu area by allowing additional people to participate and to advance the level/caliber of competition by having fairly new, current technology sport wheelchairs. The turnout and response in Kathmandu was wonderful. We had over 60 participants each day during the three day clinic. It was great to see both men and women, boys and girls  of all ages, disabilities and skill level. The participants ranged from a very old man, with limited mobility and physical strength to a very young girl with tons of energy and an amazing smile…..from experienced players that train and play on a team to people who had never participated in a sport/competitive activity in their lives. To see everybody work together, try things they hadn’t tried before, and to push themselves beyond their previous limits was refreshing and gratifying. There was a girl who for the first time got into her wheelchair from the floor without assistance from anyone…..people began to realize the importance and possibility of INDEPENDENCE and self-reliance. Without a doubt, WAW’s “Nepal Project” was not only deemed to be an overwhelming success but an unforgettable experience for all involved,

“To Persons with Disabilities I’d like to say that  ALL of us have restrictions and limitations of one kind or another, and none of us are capable of doing everything. We owe it to ourselves and to society to do as much as we can with what we push ourselves to improve/develop/train ourselves to utilize as much of our abilities as we can. To slightly modify something that was said by a very famous person....Ask not what others can do for you, ask what you can do for yourself and others.”



Position: Lover of Life-Change Agent

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