by Claire Miller
In mid-March, Kinesiology and Health student Jo vanNiekerk played a game of wheelchair basketball against members of the Atlanta Wolfpack, a five-time state champion wheelchair basketball team, in the Georgia State University Student Recreation Center as part of Associate Professor Deborah Shapiro’s wheelchair sport class.
She realized how competitive they were and how dedicated they were to their sport when the Wolfpack handedly won the game.
So when the opportunity came to work with the team once again, vanNiekerk and her classmates stepped up without hesitation.
Shapiro’s class participated in a walk-roll-a-thon March 30 to help raise funds for the Wolfpack and the American Association of Adapted Sports Programs, a national nonprofit organization that develops and supports a standardized structure for school-based athletic competition to improve the well being of students with physical disabilities.
“We really wanted to help them raise money to maintain and build their program,” vanNiekerk said. “It’s been incredible to work with the Wolfpack. I really had no idea what to expect, but I’ve gained a new perspective on athletes who play wheelchair sports.”
Wolfpack members raised $2,000 through donations from their friends and family prior to the walk-roll-a-thon, where students in Shapiro’s class paired up with them to walk or roll laps around the gym at the GSU recreation center.
Half of the proceeds from the fundraiser will go to the Wolfpack to purchase wheelchairs, pay for transportation to practices and games, repair equipment, buy uniforms and pay referees. The rest of the proceeds will go to The American Association of Adapted Sports Programs to administer their programs statewide.
“It is one thing to read about persons with a disability and learn how to play the sports with classmates without disabilities; the meaningfulness of the material and the impact that you can have on the lives of youth with disabilities comes out when you have the opportunity to interact with the athletes personally and realize they have the same needs for friendship, participation, competition and fun as peers their age without disabilities,” Shapiro said.
For more information about the Department of Kinesiology and Health, visit http://education.gsu.edu/kin/index.htm.