SportAbility Basketball Players Test out Their New Wheelchairs

By Jill Kasparie, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – After only four months, a wheelchair basketball team is back on the court and ready to roll after a tough start to the year.

Someone stole more than a dozen wheelchairs used to play basketball from SportAbility in mid-December. The trailer was sitting at the Stoney Point YMCA in Cedar Rapids when it was taken. Days later, law enforcement found the missing trailer, without the chairs, in Newhall. SportAbility figured it would take thousands of dollars to replace the chairs.

The group took up fundraising and gathering donations, and now the athletes are in the brand new wheelchairs.

They gathered in excitement Tuesday night.

"It seems like it's been a long process but if you really look at it, you know, back in December we lost our chairs and it's only April now, mid to the end of April, and we got most of our equipment back," said Wheelchair Basketball Player Jon Litzkow.

The team and SportAbility supporters unloaded all of the shiny, new wheelchairs, bringing them into the church where they practice. After unwrapping and putting them together, it was time to try them out.

"It's just going to feel like a new pair of shoes to someone. When they go up to play sports and they feel -- the feeling of getting to break them in, that's what we are feeling here today with our new chairs," Litzkow said.

SportAbility of Iowa Program Director Jayden Barrett can't believe they're already back on the court.

"For a lot of people it's really nothing too spectacular but for me, it kind of chokes me up a little bit. It's phenomenal," Barrett said.

Players said the wheelchairs are better than their old ones, which were outdated. Businesses and the community are to thank for making this happen.The group was able to get 11 new wheelchairs.

"Just everyday people were just sending in checks for $20, $40 and it just added up and I want everybody who donated to know that it paid off," Barrett said.

Now, nothing can stop this team, and that's something to cheer about.

The team will now practice Tuesdays from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. at the Oakland Church of the Nazarene on 42nd Street Northeast in Cedar Rapids.

The team is still waiting on a few more new wheelchairs. When all is said and done, they'll have about twenty chairs for the team.
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