Wheelchair basketball begins tonight

Thursday, June 14, 2012

By Rusty Murry

Nevada Daily Mail

The first game or meeting of those wanting to get involved or play wheelchair basketball, as part of a team or league, will be tonight at the Franklin P. Norman City/County Community Center at 6 o'clock.

The city of Nevada and On My Own Inc. have become partners in an effort to get the activity started locally.

According to Stacey Wilson, On My Own development and community relations director, the project was largely "spearheaded" by Mark Dlugozima, who approached her with the idea that she, in turn, took to Parks and Recreation Director Dana Redburn.

Wilson said, "they were all for it," and the idea took off from there. Dlugozima fell out of a tree 10 months ago, while trimming some limbs, and destroyed both his L-1 and L-2 vertebrae. He has been a wheelchair user since then and is ready to do something new. "I can't sit still -- I want to do something," he said.

Dlugozima and his "significant other" had been playing roundball at the YMCA before his accident and he thought the wheelchair basketball would be a fun, affordable way for him to get out and meet people and get some good exercise. Sitting at home has been hard for him. His physical therapy has been going well and he thinks this will do him and others a lot of good -- he's anxious to get started.

He said, "we've got this brand new, nice community center -- why not get people out?"

Both Dlugozima and Wilson said they hope to have a team and perhaps a league in place by fall. Long term, they'd like to have both a recreational team and a competitive team, but for now, they are just looking to get people involved. Dlugozima said they had already had some response and several people he talked to during Bushwhacker Days seemed interested. He said he didn't know there were so many disabled people in town until he saw many of them at the festival last weekend.

He hopes a lot of them will show up tonight, he wants people to know that they don't have to be disabled to participate. Organizers will try to find chairs non-disabled players could use and Dlugozima is also seeking used, unwanted wheelchairs for that purpose. Even non-working wheelchairs could be fixed or used for parts. People with the electric travel chairs are also welcome; and Wilson noted that players also need not be clients of On My Own.

The play will begin tonight at 6 and last until 7; but that time is flexible, said Dlugozima. If they have a good turnout and need more time, he said the management of the community center has said they can adjust the time.

Dlugozima said that in spite of what has happened to him, he "fears absolutely nothing." He said a person has to be proactive in their own physical recovery and this is one way he can do that.

For more information call On My Own at (417) 667-7007.

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