Wheelchair basketball rekindles competitive spirit

Published: January 26, 2011  |  Source: sun-sentinel.com
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For Sherrod Nelson, the opportunity to play basketball again in a group setting with others has been rewarding. Nelson is one of the members of the Spinal Cord Injury Support Group who has endured a life-changing experience.

“This is a way of getting out of the house,” said Nelson, who participates on a wheelchair basketball team twice a week at the Village Multipurpose Center in Sunrise. “Most of us were very competitive when we were able-bodied, so this can fulfill some of our dreams again.”

To Nelson, something is always better than nothing.

“It feels better to get cardiovascular exercise and makes you feel alive because you do not get the chance a lot,” he said. “My legs have been taken away, but not my heart.”

The group includes members who are paralyzed from the neck, chest or waist down and others who have had strokes, neurological problems or brain injuries or who suffer from cerebral palsy.

The spirit of the members is evident during the basketball scrimmages, with the skill level of athletes remaining high. Featuring behind-the-back passes and one-handed bank shots, a typical three-on-three full-court scrimmage brings smiles, laughter and fun back to their lives.

Sue Krinsky, the director of the Spinal Cord Injury Support Group, has been a nurse at Healthsouth Sunrise Rehab Hospital for 22 years. She is a volunteer who started the group in 2008 with just two members.

Now, there are more than 300 participants.

“There is a need in the community to have activities for the disabled and those with spinal cord injuries,” Krinsky said. “We are a nonprofit and a very structured group, with our mission and goal to help the disabled. The hope is to open a door that they didn’t have by being a resource for them to exercise and socialize in Broward County.”

Krinsky and Fran Wade of Healthsouth Sunrise Rehab Hospital have helped initiate a number of activities, including boating, fishing, tennis, quad rugby, handcrank bicycling and skydiving.

Plantation resident Ron Walling is one of the members who will participate Sunday in the ING Miami Marathon.

“The group has really been great for me with a mix of people” said Walling, who was an airplane mechanic before being injured at Miami International Airport. “It’s nice to spend time and do activities with others who are in the same boat as you.”

The group also has fundraisers each year in order to raise money and awareness of their cause. There will be a golf tournament in May at Woodmont County Club in Tamarac.

Ryan Gebauer, the president of the support group, has been paralyzed from the neck down since age 16.

“We have become a family, and to have a support group is huge for us,” Gebauer said. “I have tried to be proactive in the community to educate kids so they can have a quality of life and also be reactive with our group to promote the resources that we need in order to expand.”

The wheelchair basketball team meets from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, with the support of Sunrise Mayor Mike Ryan. Ryan was able to reserve a court twice a week in the city for the support group.

Krinsky and the group continue to face limitations in finding facilities and opportunities to stage activities.

“We want to open a resource center one day for children and those who are not able-bodied in Broward County,” Krinsky said. “We need support from the community.”

Visit http://www.scisg.org for information about the group.

ALEX KUSHEL