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March 28, 2002 Basketball fundraiser was an assignment for the wheel world



Benoît Lévesque, Yves Deziell

Benoît Lévesque (left), Yves Deziell (right), a charitable basketball game last Saturday.

Photo by Andrew Dobrowolskyj

by John Austin

Marie-Claude Mercier doesn’t like to take the easy way out. That’s why, when her professor, George Short, divided his exercise science class into groups and told them to organize a sporting event to raise money for charity, Mercier’s group chose wheelchair basketball.

The result was a successful “baskethon” held last Saturday at École Joseph-Charbonneau in Montreal’s Park Extension district. The lucky charity was the Centre d’Intégration à la Vie Active (CIVA), which has hosted a wheelchair basketball event for the past eight years.

“Our Concordia team [Bodies in Motion] expects to raise the most money in class,” beamed Mercier.

“Organizing an event like this is a lot of work for everyone, but it’s worth it. You can tell everyone is having a good time out there. Doing something like this is great for someone who wants to go into sports management. There is nothing like hands-on experience.”

The rules of wheelchair basketball are fairly simple. Anyone can play — physically challenged or able-bodied, young or old, male or female. There are five specially-made wheelchairs on the floor per side. Each game is 22 minutes long.

A dozen teams took part, including a team of young people aged 13 to 17 known as Les Tornades.

“This is fun, but it took me a while to get used to the wheelchair,” said Yannick Deschamps, 14, of Montreal. “It’s cool, because we get prizes and stuff at the end.”

Mercier’s Concordia volunteers were Julie Stronach, Niketa Ghandi and Rhona Solomon. They had to find a venue, get teams to participate, find more volunteers, and organize prizes and participation certificates.

“Some of the groups in our class organized things like regular three-on-three basketball in the Concordia gym or a hockey game against the teachers,” Mercier said. “That’s fine, but we thought something like this would be more challenging and rewarding for us.”

Mercier and her crew began the project in January and found that their chosen charity was both helpful and appreciative. For the past 30 years, CIVA has offered recreational activities for people with physical handicaps in the Montreal region. They organize events at the recreational, provincial and national levels.

“We hope this will also sensitize the general public to wheelchair basketball and the needs of groups like CIVA,” Mercier said. “For able-bodied competitors, it’s a great way to put themselves in the place of those who have handicaps. This gets everyone together for friendly sporting competition.”

Jean-François Olivier lives just a block away from the school, and brought his family along to watch some of the competition.

“I saw the sign for wheelchair basketball and decided to see what it was all about,” he said. “It’s amazing how they can move those wheelchairs and pass the ball around.”

When he was told the event was organized by able-bodied university students, he said, “Good for them. It’s a worthy cause, and for young people to get involved, c’est fantastique!