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Wheelchair basketball redefines 'ability' for students

Kids at Spring Road Elementary buckle up to play wheelchair basketball
Posted at 2:54 PM, Apr 14, 2023

NEENAH (NBC 26) — Spring Road Elementary students had the chance to learn about empathy, diversity and inclusion by playing wheelchair basketball, thanks to a partnership with an organization called The Ability Center.

Chelsea Germait, a cross-categorical teacher, and Jodi DeBruin, a first-grade teacher, formed the Spread the Word Committee at Spring Road. The committee aims to spread messages of inclusion, empathy, sympathy and acceptance.

They said the wheelchair basketball opportunity came about thanks to their selection in a competition called "Able Eight" through The Ability Center. They applied and won the chance to be one of eight schools to receive a visit from the organization for free or a 50% discount.

The partnership led to a day of hands-on fun, and new perspectives for curious young minds.

“All of the kids are having such a great time; they’ve all been able to get into a wheelchair, [and] play different games," Germait said. "I think overall they're really getting to see what it's like for all kids."

Damian Buchman, The Ability Center's founder and executive director, said he started his company because he wanted a way to give back to the community after surviving childhood cancer when he was a teen.

His visit to Spring Road Elementary marked the organization's first year in Neenah.

“We take away the lens that they’re used to seeing of disability, and [they can] realize really, anybody can do this," Buchman said. "And that’s the ultimate goal: that they don’t see the disability, but they see the ability.”

DeBruin said that Buchman's message was right in line with Spread the Word's mission.

“We start our day off by saying you have to be kind and inclusive. And it’s one thing to say it, but I think this opportunity really gives the kids an opportunity to live it as well," said DeBruin.