ATLANTA — 25 years ago, after Atlanta hosted the first paralympics in the United States, a movement started in Atlanta that creates opportunity for athletes who compete in adaptive sports.
“We are disabled but we are able to compete at a high level.”
“It is really physical, but it is fun.” Colin Lancaster is 17. He’s been playing wheelchair basketball since he was six years old. “I had a car wreck when I was five. I was on the way to the zoo to see some family.” He has been in a wheelchair ever since. “It’s been so fun to go out and compete.” He said, “This has really helped me get back out there and do what I’ve loved to do since I was little.”
BlazeSports is a nonprofit organization founded after the 1996 Atlanta Paralympic Games and a leader in the field of adaptive sports and recreation. “The mission is to impact the lives of kids and veterans with physical disabilities.” Dawn Churi is the Executive Director of BlazeSports. “We embody diversity and inclusion.”
The athletes have missed being on the court with their team. The pandemic took away funding and made finding space to play more challenging and more expensive, but they had to find a way to going.
There is simply no way to quantify the value it brings. It’s too big and meaningful to fully describe.
“We are disabled but we are able to compete at a high level.” Eric Francis is a high school senior at Holy Innocents. “I was born with spina bifida, a neurological and physical disability.” Francis says it’s been life changing to get to compete with others who understand the journey. “Adaptive sports showed me I wasn’t alone in this disability; we are the and we are able to compete at a high level.”
Blaze sports athletes are coming back to the court thanks to the Atlanta Hawks now sponsoring the 2021 season.
“These are some of the greatest athletes in Atlanta.” Jon Babul is the Hawks’ Vice President of Basketball Development. He said, “They have persevered over challenges that a lot of athletes don’t have to overcome.” Babul says watching their ability, mental toughness and resolve is always impressive. “Supporting them is what the Atlanta Hawks is all about, bringing basketball to kids and being true to Atlanta.” Babul said. “It is great to see wheelchair basketball and adaptive sports thriving in our city, we are thrilled to be a part of it.”
The Hawks will sponsor the BlazeSports Junior Hawks Wheelchair Basketball team for the 2021 season and will be the presenting sponsor of the annual Big Peach Slam Wheelchair Basketball Tournament on May 15 and 16 in Atlanta at Acworth Community Center.
For more information about the event, volunteering and game schedule, visit www.blazesports.org.