Kevin Hosea asked third-grade students at Wiesbrook Elementary School in Wheaton if they knew anyone who used a wheelchair.
A few hands shot up. But no one knew how a chair designed with angled wheels can turn sharply on a basketball court.
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Hosea, 27, knows. Born with spina bifida, he explained to students how he uses his chair to do just that.
His recent appearance at Wheaton's Wiesbrook Elementary School was part of a Western DuPage Special Recreation Association program that offers hands-on activities for schools, businesses or community groups interested in how people deal with, and overcome, physical challenges.
Officials from WDRSA also explained autism, vision and hearing loss, and developmental delays to the Wiesbrook third-graders.
WDSRA provides services for adults and children in the Bloomingdale, Carol Stream, Glen Ellyn, Naperville, Roselle, Warrenville, West Chicago, Wheaton and Winfield park districts.
Hosea, an adapted sports supervisor at WDSRA, says the school program is aimed in part at dispelling myths and discouraging students from making misguided comments.
"People always assume that you (people with disabilities) can't do things or that you need help," Hosea said. "Me, personally, when it comes to sports, they'll assume I do Special Olympics. (But) Special Olympics is for cognitive disabilities."
Hosea competes in everything from track to swimming but currently is training for the triathlon in the Paralympics. He recently coached WDSRA's Windy City Warriors wheelchair basketball team to its seventh state championship.
He's been an athlete for most of his life, ever since he heard Jean Driscoll, an eight-time champion in the women's wheelchair division of the Boston Marathon, speak at a convention on spina bifida when he was 4 years old.
"She was letting all the kids use her racing chair," Hosea said. "I tried it out and loved it."
He told his parents and his aunts and uncles, and they all chipped in and bought him his first racing chair.
Like his idol, Hosea let the students test the chairs in the Wiesbrook gymnasium.
Eight-year-old Parker Brown launched a successful basketball shot after several tries and nearly crashing into the gym's wall. The exercise sparked competition and cheers of encouragement from the kids sitting on the sideline, itching to play on the court.
"I feel like when I tried to make a long shot I just had to chuck it with one arm," said Parker, a point guard on the school's team. "It's all about your strength in your arms."
The basketball exercise was one of five sessions at the school. Students walked blindfolded with canes. Some learned the alphabet in sign language. Others tried to complete a puzzle without the use of pictures on the pieces.
The puzzle activity was designed to simulate the learning experiences of people with cognitive disabilities, Becky Prince explained to students.
"It's like a really difficult math problem," said Prince, WDSRA's manager of athletics. "You just can't try and figure it out without going back to all the steps you learned before."
The puzzle stumped Ramsey Khayal's friend, but the 8-year-old had a few words of advice.
"Nothing is impossible," Ramsey told his buddy. "I hate the word impossible."
They were familiar words to Hosea, echoing his philosophy as an athlete and coach.
"That was definitely my big message," he said.