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Organizer holds wheelchair sports camp in Cedar Falls

June 14, 2009

CEDAR FALLS - It's the third year for a youth sports camp at the University of Northern Iowa, and Jack Ehrenman has the schedule ready.

Track, basketball and weight training are on tap for the first full day. Volleyball, rugby and rock climbing round out the second.

It's a full day of getting used to competitive sports that participants may never have tried, including some they thought they'd never be able to accomplish.

Article Photos

Participants in the UNI Wheelchair Sports Camp practice basketball skills during last year’s session.

After all, they spend much of their lives in wheelchairs.

But that's only a minor obstacle to playing sports, said Ehrenman, who is co-director of the UNI Wheelchair Sports Camp 2009, which will be held today through Saturday.

"It's really interesting to see someone who has no use of their legs climb up to the top of the (rock climbing) wall," Ehrenman said.

Ehrenman, who does not use a chair, nevertheless knows something about disabled competitive sports. His second-oldest son has a severe mental disability but participated in basketball and track in the Special Olympics. His youngest son was born with spina bifida and wore leg braces but went to a wheelchair sports camp in elementary school.

Since that camp closed several years ago, the UNI camp is the only opportunity in the state for youth using wheelchairs to try out competitive sports training, Ehrenman said.

"What we're actually teaching them is the competitiveness in the sports, and the opportunities that are out there," he said. "We're giving opportunities to some kids that would either never take them or never have them."

Special chairs are needed for the events, though funding prohibits getting enough of them. But Ehrenman and co-director Nancy Hamilton do get to use donated basketball chairs from the Iowa Chariots basketball team as well as racing chairs for the track events.

They expect a dozen or more participants at the camp, which is an increase from last year.

"Each year you get a few more kids, a few more volunteers, a few more sponsors," Ehrenman said. "We're planting seeds, and it's growing."



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