Wheelchair basketball tournament drives awareness

Roads to Freedom Center for Independent Living of Northcentral Pennsylvania held its 6th annual wheelchair basketball tournament on Saturday. The teams consisted of people from donating businesses and other Centers for Independent Living, including Pennsylvania Statewide Independent Living Council and Center for Independent Living of Central Pennsylvania, shown here wearing yellow and two-time tournament champions Liberty Resources, in red. KATELYN HIBBARD/Sun-Gazette

Sounds of people cheering, basketballs dribbling and folks laughing as they worked out how to maneuver their wheelchairs across the basketball courts filled the Keiper Recreation Center at Lycoming College on Saturday.

All the fun could be attributed to Roads to Freedom Center for Independent Living of Northcentral Pennsylvania, which held its 6th annual wheelchair basketball tournament in the recreation center all day.

During the tournament, a craft and vendor fair was set up for people to shop at and participate in raffles.

“It’s all about having fun and raising disability awareness,” said Kim Womeldorf, director of programs and services.

The event is the non-profit organization’s main fundraiser, helping it to assist people with disabilities in the Northcentral region of the state transition from nursing facilities into their own homes.

By press time, the total amount raised had not been calculated, but Roads to Freedom staff said the funds will go to its Ramping Up Life Campaign.

The campaign helps differently-abled people with costs associated with obtaining affordable housing, necessary home modifications, durable medical equipment and services in order to gain full independence. As the program’s title might suggest, one of its primary goals is adding ramps that comply with Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines to people’s homes.

The fundraiser doubles as a disability awareness training for those who attend, giving participants a glimpse of barriers that differently-abled people may deal with.

“It’s a great day for disability awareness,” said Amy Cline, of Roads to Freedom. “It’s not just people who are wheelchair-bound. My son played and he couldn’t believe how difficult it was.”

The competing teams consisted of members of businesses that donate to the non-profit as well as some of its sister organizations, including CompuGen Tech, Liberty Resources, Center for Independent Living of Central Pennsylvania and others.

Each team member had to play basketball while in a wheelchair.

Liberty Resources, a sister Center for Independent Living based in Philadelphia, took home the trophy for the second year in a row, Cline said.

“It’s about our Ramping Up Life Campaign, bringing the community together, building awareness and the fundraiser itself,” she said. “But it’s really about us being able to keep helping our disabled community members be able to live at home.”