ARK Advocates

A.J. Fitzpatrick (left), of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, maneuvers around Matthew Hull, Table Mound Elementary School principal, while playing wheelchair basketball in the Roll 'N Shoot for ARK Advocates tournament at Peosta Community Centre in Peosta, Iowa, on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019.

PEOSTA, Iowa -- Non-disabled business owners, educators and supporters learned lessons from more experienced wheelchair basketball hoopsters during a fundraiser for ARK advocates earlier today.

More than 100 people participated in the event, raising about $2,000 for the nonprofit, which -- among other things -- offers a lending library of adaptive recreational equipment and services for folks who need them.

This is the group's third annual Roll 'N Shoot tournament, held in the Peosta Community Centre.

Games were three-on-three, with teams made up of mostly non-disabled community members.

A group of principals from Dubuque elementary schools grabbed some wheels and took to the courts.

"We all have students who utilize ARK Advocates' services," said Eisenhower Elementary Principal Andy Ferguson. "We see what good it does."

He and four other principals gave it their all. It wasn't always easy, either.

"I can't believe we have to play two more games," Ferguson told Kennedy Elementary School Principal Nick Hess, just before the second half of their team's first game.

"It's definitely a change," Ferguson said later. "Physically, it's not easy. It's very taxing. None of us have ever done anything like this."

That's one of the points of the event, according to ARK Advocates Board President Aulanda Krause.

"We have community members, sponsors and local people sitting in a chair to gain awareness and understanding of what it might be like to play an adaptive sport with a sports chair," she said. 

Ally Darter, a seventh-grade student at Roosevelt Middle School, said she has been playing wheelchair basketball and other adaptive sports for more than two years now. This year, she formed her own team -- the Rolling Ladies --along with non-disabled friends. 

"It's just a lot of fun," she said before her team's round of three matches. "I meet a lot of new friends. I think we'll do OK."

Practiced wheelchair teams like "Chair Force One," of Waterloo, also traveled to participate.

Darter's parents participated on team sponsored by Family Beer and Liquor, of East Dubuque, Ill. Krause said she hopes that private sector support for the event will grow.

“I’d sure like to grow it in the future for more businesses sponsoring and actually playing,” she said. “There’s some misconceptions, maybe, that people need a chair to participate. That’s not the case. We want people to get the perspective of someone who uses these. Once we overcome those, we hope to get more businesses involved. It would make a great team-building exercise for employees at a business.”

Players on the Emmaus Bible College basketball team refereed Saturday's games.

The $2,000 ARK Advocates raised through the event doesn't go a long way, according to Krause, noting that the total is about the cost of the average adaptive chair. More specialized chairs can cost up to $7,000. 

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