Local team fosters awareness for disabled
Basketball on Wheels
By Chad Konecky
Medford Transcript

In a society replete with disenfranchised populations, disabled Americans arguably rank amongst the most ignored segments.  Any cursory survey of local wheelchair-accessible facilities underscores that point.  So in an era where the scope of the Americans with Disabilities Act seems to be narrowing, Medford's Special Education Parent Advisory Council is committed to helping raising awareness.  And to that end, the city's SPED PAC co-sponsored a unique basketball game this past Saturday.

Medford's entry into last weekend's Celebrating Differences: Basketball on Wheels exhibition at Wakefield High's Field House discovered there's a lot more to being disabled than sometimes requiring a wheelchair and there's plenty more to operating a wheelchair than spinning wheels.  Playing in wheelchairs and facing the New England Blazers, a recreational basketball team of individuals with disabilities, Medford's Lou Carbone, Tom DeFilippo, Renne Hallinan, Rich Medeiros and Michael Marks received an education of sorts.

"I was honored to be involved in an event that promotes disability awareness," says Medford City Councilor and Wellington Road resident Marks, 36, a 1984 graduate of Medford High, who actually sustained a scalp laceration in an on-the-court spill Saturday. "(The event) also emphasized the continued need to support children with special needs.  It was an eye-opener to try to play basketball in a wheelchair, I'll tell you that.  I didn't realized that balance is such a crucial part of being in a wheelchair."

In the course of the 10-minute exhibition, Medford's on-the-court five was all over the court.  Literally, Sprawling.  Falling. It wasn't as much of a contest as it was a contest for survival.

"The purpose is to make more people aware of the trials of being in a wheelchair," says Lou Carbone, 53, a Paris Street resident and a 1966 graduate of Medford High, where he was a three-sport athlete. "A lot of doors close on those folks -doors we take for granted because we can just walk through them.  I'll tell you what, trying to keep up with those guys was a strange feeling.  We were falling all over the place, because of what we take for granted with our feet and balance is a totally different experience in a wheelchair. Anybody can make a wheelchair go, but how to stop it, spin it in a circle, that's .....

Click on each of the pictures for a larger image...

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Richard Medeiros (center) of the Medford Pac Gym Rats battles for a rebound against the New England Blazers, during the Basketball on Wheels exhibition, June 22, at Wakefield

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Medford's Michael Marks (far right) congratulates teammate Louis Carbone after their team the Medford Pac Gym Rats lost to the New England Blazers, June 22.
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Thomas Defilippio (center) of the Medford Pac Gym Rats goes head overheels during the Basketball on Wheels game against the New England Blazers, June 22, at Wakefield High School.
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Colm Hennesey (left) who was named honorary member of the New England Blazers for the day, looks for a teammate as hi is guarded by a Cambridge Firefighter who also had a team.