Team promotes community involvement


The Institute for Disability Studies on the Gulf Park campus and USM’s Golden Eagles wheelchair basketball team will host a free clinic Feb. 20 at the Payne Center.

During the awareness promoting exhibition, IDS invites attendees to learn and play wheelchair basketball with the Golden Eagles.

IDS, a non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing education, independence and quality of life for persons with disabilities, has hosted this event for nearly six years.

Grants and foundations fund the event with in-kind support from USM.

“As an institute designed to serve individuals with disabilities through assistive technology, evaluation, consultation and recreation, we enjoy working with the wheelchair basketball team and witnessing them grow through such a great program,” said Devin Bellman, management assistant for program services at IDS.

Bellman said with the institute’s involvement with the wheelchair basketball team over the years, the team has had mind-blowing, competitive and hardworking natural athletes.

“The most rewarding thing about working with the Golden Eagles and other members of the institute is knowing that you are helping someone who is vulnerable from whatever circumstances that led them here and [watching] them gain that sense of accomplishment while taking charge of their life,” she said.

The team normally consists of 10 members, with recruiting from Veterans Affairs, hospitals, rehabilitation centers and the Wounded Warrior Project, as well as through word-of-mouth.

The team gathers people from all over the Gulf Park campus and Long Beach area to participate in their events.

Games and exhibitions are scheduled throughout the year as individuals take the time to promote the team.

The Golden Eagles’ mission is to provide people with various disabilities the opportunity to compete with fellow athletes and to promote awareness for people with disabilities.

“It’s really nice being out there, because you’re able to compete again, and just knowing that you are on a level playing field and able to enjoy sports again,” said Kevin Galloway, a third-year member of the Golden Eagles wheelchair team. “It’s an amazing feeling.”

Galloway said his experiences in this program have been personally impactful.

“I mean it really is life changing. It gets you involved with a group of people that also have disabilities so they can relate to you,” Galloway said. “It’s a great bond that also allows us to live a healthy and active lifestyle, which is extremely important for somebody with a physical disability.”

Interested persons must be physically unable to play regulation stand-up basketball. The current team includes members with spinal cord injuries and birth defects as well as war veterans and accident victims.

As a team within the National Wheelchair Basketball Association, the Golden Eagles join over 130 wheelchair basketball teams competing on a national level.

Saturday’s event will include an exhibition game against Jackson’s Mace wheelchair basketball team. Following the exhibition, visitors will be welcome to join in and learn how to play wheelchair basketball with the Golden Eagles.

The Golden Eagles plan to move their team to the Hattiesburg campus next season to tap into a new community base.