SECONDARY school students from all across Ireland assembled at the Mardyke Arena on Wednesday afternoon for a Wheelchair Basketball4All event that raised around €3,000 for the Irish Wheelchair Association.
This was organised by the B.Ed. Physical Education, Sports Studies and Arts programme in UCC with the IWA, Cork Sports Partnership and Mardyke Arena Over 600 students attended the event and they got to experience adapted physical activity through wheelchair basketball.
It was such a success that the organisers now hope to turn this into an annual celebration of diversity and inclusion at the Mardyke Arena.
Two students behind Wheelchair Basketball4All were Aoife Feehan and Niamh De Jong, and they made sure that each of their plans were realised after months of planning.
“We have a health and well-being module that we choose and there’s about 10 or 11 of us in it and Diarmuid Lester is a past pupil of PE and before COVID hit they did this event,” Aoife explained.
“He just said that it would be great to do it. We had some schools last semester from Scoil Bernadette and there were students in wheelchairs. We kind of realised that it is very hard for them to get involved.
“We got introduced to Paul Ryan who works with the Irish Wheelchair Association and he is unreal. His spirit is amazing. Just the way he talks about disability and everything.
"Together, between Diarmuid, ourselves, and Paul Ryan, we decided to bring this event back to life. Hopefully now every year it will be annual thing.”
Behind Wheelchair Basketball4All was hours of organising that involved multiple groups coming together.
“The Mardyke is obviously hosting the event. They are providing the space, the benches, and all of that,” Niamh said. “The Irish Wheelchair Association are providing all the wheelchairs and also the referees. So we were making the timetables, getting the word out there on social media, and getting sponsors.
Aoife added: “Cork Sports Partnership is a big one as well. We worked with them as well. They provided more wheelchairs because it is hard to get that many wheelchairs for that many students. They are great.
“We also did a TY inclusion day,” Niamh picks up the story. “Two TYs from each school came a week and a half ago and they did a four-hour workshop where they were introduced to disability and sport, like the stigma around it and all that, not judging people for their disability, and using person-first language. They were introduced to wheelchair basketball as well so they could be leaders for the rest of their classmates.”