Wheelchair team sports in New England thanks to combined funding efforts

Wheelchair Sports NSW's Joe Shoebridge goes through the rules with the players.
Wheelchair Sports NSW's Joe Shoebridge goes through the rules with the players.

SPORTS enthusiasts with disabilities and their able-bodied teammates will be able to play together right here in the New England region after the purchase of 10 sports wheelchairs.

The new chairs were handed over to the community at a MET schools sports day at Tamworth Sports Dome today.

Several parties rallied together to buy the $20,000 worth of gear, motivated to see Armidale campus student Arne Ovenden able to play with his peers again.

Arne became paraplegic after an accident in 2015.

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Regional principal Patrick McGing said it had been a “tragic injury”, but it was heartwarming to see the school community, businesses, disability sector organisations, fundraising groups and individuals working together to buy the chairs.

“This is the way the world really should be, when you think about it … They thought about others apart from themselves,” Mr McGing said.

Arne’s father Phil Ovenden said: “For Arne to be able to participate alongside his friends in school sports means the world to us.”

MET students from the Tamworth, Armidale and Maitland areas got to try out the new equipment with a few games of basketball.

Regional asset 

They will be held at Sport UNE in Armidale, and  MET Armidale students will have first dibs on use.

However, they will also be available for use across the region. 

Wheelchair Sports NSW regional sports development officer Joe Shoebridge said if the interest was there, the wheelchairs could be transported to Tamworth for regular games of, say, basketball and tennis.

“This is the first step into establishing wheelchair team sports in the New England,” he said.

What they said:

Several groups pitched in to make the purchase possible, including more than 15 businesses, the MET School Armidale community, Wheelchair Sports NSW, Pathfinders Ability Links, and police and friends motorcycle social group Blue Liners Australia.

Here’s what some had to say about the achievement:

For many individuals, especially kids, participation in wheelchair sport is an important pathway to social connection and the community following their catastrophic injury.

Joe Shoebridge, Wheelchair Sports NSW.

It sounded like something that we would like to see happen. [Police in] rural areas … appreciate some of the problems that disabled people have – or just rural people in general – with regards to accessing services like that.

Harley Willox, motorcycle social group Blue Liners Australia.

[We] work closely with people with disability, their families and carers to support them to fulfil their goals, hopes and dreams. When we heard about Arne’s goal to take part in sport, we jumped at the chance to help him to improve his life.

Brett Pischke, Pathfinders Ability Links.

When things like that happen to someone so young, you wonder what on Earth you could ever do to help them to feel better. Then you see something like this: a whole school, our community and the wider community, all rallying behind Arne to get him and nine others a wheelchair so they can play together, and there’s your answer.

Patrick McGing, OneSchool Global (of which MET Armidale school is a member)
This story Sports wheelchairs offer whole new ball game to the region first appeared on The Northern Daily Leader.


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