Adaptive Sports Day message at Harper College: 'You don't have to stop playing'
Inspiration from a Boston Marathon bombing survivor and others on how physical challenges shouldn't deter one from participating in athletics was part of an action-filled Tuesday at Harper College's first Adaptive Sports Day in Palatine.
Wheelchair basketball and rugby were on display as examples of adaptive sports for a couple hundred high school students and others visiting the college's Foglia Foundation Health and Recreation Center for the inaugural event.
Harper College access advocate Robert Uhren, who organized the day with wellness manager Beth Ripperger, said athletics can be a positive outlet for those who become disabled or are born with physical challenges.
"There are nursing students or health care students here (at Harper) who are running across patients who used to be basketball players or archers or golfers, but they've lost the use of their legs, for example," Uhren said through an American Sign Language interpreter.
"And those people who came here and got a taste of something like this can tell their patients, 'You don't have to stop playing basketball or golf or archery or whatever it is that you did. You don't have to stop that. There are adaptive sports for that.'"
Roseann Sdoia, whose right leg was amputated above the knee after she was injured when two bombs detonated near the Boston Marathon finish line in April 2013, was the keynote speaker for Adaptive Sports Day. Sdoia was part of a group waiting for a friend to finish the marathon when the bombs exploded.
Having grown up in an active home and being a recreational runner and skier before the attacks, Sdoia did not want an amputated limb to keep her down. She also wanted to continue living in Boston's North End and knew she'd have to successfully navigate the crowded area on foot.
Sdoia received a running prosthesis within a few months of the bombing and ran 2 miles of a 5-kilometer race in June 2014.
Her athletic accomplishments since include participating in the Empire State Building Run-Up in New York, and snowboarding.
"I wanted to be able to do these activities that gave me that same sense (of freedom) back," Sdoia said. "And it doesn't have to be something I did before. I'm willing to try anything and everything. I took a spin class about 15 years ago, before it was cool to spin, with one of my girlfriends who talked me into it. I hated it. I swore I'd never get back on a spin bike. Well, you know what? I really like it now."
Jim Gallo, a former Harper College trustee, touched on how wheelchair sports became a big part of his life. Gallo was a student at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb when he was struck by a drunken driver in 1980 and lost the use of his legs.
He said he initially resisted the idea of playing wheelchair sports when he later attended the University of Illinois, but he started in basketball there in 1981. He went on to co-found the Chicago Wheelchair Bulls.
"I was a real athlete," Gallo said. "And the (U of I) coach guilted me into coming out for practice. And on the first day, I fell in love with it. When you were in a wheelchair, you were disabled, but when you were a wheelchair athlete, you were mentally less disabled, I guess. And I just loved the competition."