Brent Courson, son of Rev. Larry Courson (Peace, Ann Arbor) took a summer sailing class at the University of Michigan sailing club and, even though he wasn’t very good at it, he loved it. Determined to keep practicing even during the Michigan winter, he ran into the idea of a Virtual Adaptive Sailing Simulator (VASail.com). As it turns out, sailing simulators are used not only for recreational purposes but also for spinal cord injury therapy.
Long story short: Peace, Ann Arbor purchased a sailing simulator with the help of a partial grant and a loan from CEF. The intent is to use the simulator for outreach, both as a recreational activity and as a tool for therapy. Peace’s sailing simulator is one of only 5 simulators in the U.S.
Through a series of conversations and connections, Brent Courson was invited by Professor David Chesney, of Mott’s Children’s Hospital, to an adaptive recreational planning meeting to talk about the possibility of partnering. There he met Becky McVey, a recreational therapist with the Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, and Jamie Mayo, Coordinator of the Adaptive Clinic.
How Basketball Came Into the Picture
At the meeting, McVey said that what they would REALLY like to do is to offer wheelchair basketball. Courson said that perhaps Peace could help with that, as they had a brand-new gym. Mott’s staff came to the church and really liked the facility, but they didn’t have personnel to make the activity happen.
A short time later, McVey was interviewed for an internal publication by Daniel Ellman, who was in a wheelchair. McVey found out that Ellman had played in the national wheelchair basketball championships a few years back. At a later meeting, Ellman was asked if he would be interested in coaching, and he said he had always wanted to coach wheelchair basketball. Meghan Veiga, also a recreational therapist at Mott’s, volunteered to be assistant coach.
So now the clinic had a facility AND coaches. Two dates were set. The first clinic will took place on Saturday, October 14, and included demonstrations, drills and other basketball-related activities. There were also sports wheelchairs for children to try out and a program for siblings who came along. The clinic was open to any child between the ages of 5-18 who needs modification to play basketball due to a physical disability.
“Kids will meet with current and former wheelchair basketball players while also learning valuable skills that will help them gain confidence and improve their independence,” said McVey in the days leading up to the clinic. She and several other Michigan Medicine employees helped organize the clinic.
“We know how important adaptive sports are to pediatric patients, so Mott faculty and staff are working hard to improve our offerings for patients and community members,” McVey said.
Mott’s ran the program and supplied staff; Peace supplied volunteers (for parking, registration, cleanup, and snacks), and six CUAA basketball players, along with their coach, helped out as well. The entire church building was utilized during the clinics.
A second clinic will take place on December 9, 2017. Costs for the clinics are being covered by a Thrivent Action Grant, a donation by the Dexter Rotary Club to help purchase basketballs, and donations (including athletic wheelchairs) from other community sponsors.
Peace’s bigger goal is to start a recreational league on Monday evenings after January 1. Rev. Larry Courson says, “We look forward to welcoming the wheelchair athletes and families, the University of Michigan Mott’s Hospital staff, and all of the volunteers to Peace. People with special needs sometimes feel like they are not welcome in churches. Our hope is to welcome them and share the love of the Lord Jesus Christ with them in a warm, caring, and supportive way.”
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