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Rolling for a good cause: Wheelchair basketball exhibition fundraises for the disabled

FCMC Wheelchair basketball
The Heros face off against the Wheelin' Wildcats in Dayton on Wednesday.

DAYTON, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - A wheelchair basketball exhibition game was held at Elwell Gym on Wednesday as a fundraiser for the Franklin County Medical Center’s (FCMC) Developmental Disabilities Agency (DDA). 

Dubbed the first annual, the game pitted the Wheelin’ Wildcats of Odgen against the Heroes of Franklin County; a collection of first responders and service members. 

FCMC DAA Director Rhonda Phillips said the event highlights all the abilities that people with disabilities have. 

“This will show, these people might be in wheelchairs playing basketball, but they’re going to be way better than the other people who normally aren’t in wheelchairs,” she said. 

Though the event is a fundraiser, Phillips said it’s not just about money.

“We just want to have a good time, we want to bring the community together. We want them to know about our program, the DDA program, because so many people don’t even know that we exist.”

Phillips has two sons with Down syndrome. Her eldest, Patrick, spoke about Spread the Word to End the Word day, an effort to get people to stop using the r-word. 

During a game where donations can buy you points, trick plays and balls help try and level the playing field. 

“Some people say, ‘well it moves so slow.’ Well, when we’re out there playing, we don’t think it's slow. It’s fast to us,” Vern Burgess, team captain and manager of the Wheelin’ Wildcats, said.  

Burgess suffered a broken back decades ago and said he was miserable until he found an outlet. In his case, it's basketball. 

“For us, to be out there, and to move freely, is a feeling that - let’s say you break your leg and you’re in a cast for a long time, what’s it feel like to walk again, it’s the same thing out here,” he explained. “This is how we walk again, and how we run and have fun.”  

Now Burgess and others are focused on helping a good cause. With donations towards the DDA and the local food bank, the event hopes to show those disabilities are gifted and talented, too. 

The Wheelin’ Wildcats have competed in events of the sort in Utah for many years. They hope this year is the start of a new tradition in Idaho. 

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Max Cohan

Max is a reporter for Local News 8 and KIDK Eyewitness News 3.

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