VANDALIA — The Jr. Minutemen wheelchair basketball team won with a score of 24-18 in a game against members of the Vandalia and Butler Police and Fire Departments on Friday night, Nov. 13 at Morton Middle School. The game was a fundraising event for the Jr. Minutemen organized by Michelle Grady, mother of Daniel Johnson, a student at Morton and the starter for the Jr. Minutemen basketball team.
“I am so thankful for our community,” Grady said. “We really came together to make this a great event tonight.”
The basketball games played against local law enforcement and first responder teams are a tradition the Jr. Minutemen have upheld since they first began playing four years ago.
“It brings the community together and increases disability awareness,” Jr. Minutemen coach Joe Gschwender said.
Vandalia and Butler Police and Vandalia Firemen spent approximately one hour practicing in wheelchairs before they played. Those who came out to compete against the Jr. Minutemen included officers Butler Township officers Adam Todd, John Ashworth, Benton Smith, Scott Hammond, Dustin Copley, Amanda Chiles, Jennifer Chiles, Ashley Oostveen, Chris Hammond, and Missy Oostveen.
According to Smith from the Vandalia PD, dribbling a ball and shooting a basket from a chair requires adjustment.
“It takes some getting used to,” Smith said. “But it’s fun. I saw the sign-up sheet to volunteer for this and thought it would be a great thing to do.”
The Jr. Minutemen are currently ranked fifth nationally in their division. Their team includes children under the age of 13 from cities all over the Miami Valley like Enon, Vandalia, Brookville, Riverside, Xenia, and Medway.
“When we recruit, we emphasize the athletics,” Coach Gschwender said. “We emphasize the ability rather than the disability and that’s really key to the whole thing. These are not handicapped kids. These are not kids with disabilities; these are athletes with disabilities.”
The Miami Valley Adapted Sports group is still looking for athletes between the ages of 13 and 18 to play on their varsity team.
“The positions on the adult teams are often filled faster,” Gschwender said. “Often an accident will put an adult in a wheelchair. Most of these kids are born with a disability. We want them to put to the test what they can do rather than dwell on what they can’t.”
The Jr. Minutemen travel every month during the season. Their upcoming schedule includes a double header in Cincinnati in December, a visit to Indianapolis in January, Conference Championships in Ft. Wayne in March, and National Championships in Louisville in April.
According to assistant coach Jack Webster, playing for the Jr. Minutemen has changed his 12-year-old daughter Carly’s life.
“God will never slam a door in your face without opening a window,” Webster said. “These kids are a ray of sunshine. At the end of a game, whether they win or lose, they have smiles on their faces. It makes it all worth it.”
For more information on the Jr. Minutemen and Miami Valley Adapted Sports group, visit miamivalleyadaptedsports.org