New tournament, new experiences2/25/2015
You can’t really know someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes…or, in this case, ridden in their wheels. This weekend at Courage League Sports (4405 121st St. in Urbandale) offers the chance to experience a moment confined to a wheelchair and gain an understanding that limitations are often set by people and not a disability.
“The event is open to all,” said Melissa Clarke-Wharff, founder. “It is primarily to raise awareness about people living with disabilities, so we are putting everyone in a wheelchair.”
And the Feb. 28 event probably couldn’t happen at a better time. Those scratching their heads probably aren’t basketball fans, while those who understand are screaming for the madness to begin.
“We decided to put on the event to be unique in the Des Moines area, raise awareness and thought it would pique some interest from another pool of athletes besides a running event,” Clarke-Warff said. “In addition, the timing was to do it before March Madness to create our own type of basketball hype.”
While Courage League Sports is just beginning its second year, the plan is to grow the event long-term.
“We hope this event will be an annual event and grow to be a fun premier event in our area,” Clarke-Warff said.
At CLS, their vision is simple: Every child deserves to play. Clarke-Wharff’s son, Jack, who suffered multiple strokes at age 8 and had to learn to do everything again, inspired Courage League Sports. She describes Jack as an avid sports lover, so creating an adaptive sports facility for kids like him and their families is the reason for their mission and vision.
“Our goal is to raise awareness that there are more than 30,000 kids and adults in the Greater Des Moines area who live with some type of disability, whether it’s cognitive, emotional or physical,” said Clarke-Warff. “They deserve the same options as anyone else to have an active lifestyle and opportunities to participate in sports.”
In addition to the tournament — each team is guaranteed at least two games — there will also be a few extras to look out for. Similar to the NBA All-Star weekend, there will be a 3-point contest, a dunk contest — on a four-foot hoop — and a handful of local celebrities in attendance as well.
“Wade Lookingbill is our lead former Hawkeye who has put together our former players which include Greg Brunner from Iowa, Reece Uhlenhoff from Drake, Greg Skinner [from] Iowa,” Clarke-Warff said.
The game is the exact same as any basketball game, minus the dribbling. Trying to balance the ball in your lap while propelling the chair is a challenge, and rebounding to get loose balls is far more challenging than one might expect.
“I think the thing that people don’t realize is the strength it takes to make the chair roll, upper body strength and getting your hands used to spinning the wheels,” Clarke-Warff said. “I am exhausted after playing for 30 minutes with our kids.” CV
David Rowley is an Iowa native with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Iowa and a master’s in film journalism from the University of Glasgow in Scotland.
Inaugural Courage League Sports Spin and Shoot Tournament
4405 121st St., Urbandale
Saturday, Feb. 28
Teams are three to six members. Registration fee totals $95/team. All proceeds go directly to Courage League Programming. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 515-421-4021 to register or for more information.