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Providing an outlet

Wheelchair basketball more than just a game to those who play
By: Matt Long, Sports Editor
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Editor's note: The basketball game scheduled for Monday has been postponed to a later date.

 

Bound to a wheelchair since 2008 because of multiple sclerosis, Folsom’s Craig Carter went through denial and depression before realizing he had to move on.

In 2009, he became involved with the Capital Cagers, a wheelchair basketball organization he credits with helping him physically and mentally. Carter and some of his teammates will be at Sutter Middle School Monday, demonstrating the sport of wheelchair basketball to physical education classes, capped off with a fundraising game at 7 p.m. against students and coaches. Proceeds from the game will go to the Capital Cagers.

“The message to the kids is that you can continue in athletics even after something catastrophic in life happens,” said Carter, a 58-year-old retired CPA. “It’s to let the kids know that if they ever end up in this situation, it’s not over.”

Sutter Middle School Principal Keri Phillips is glad to have the Cagers visit the school.

“I fully support their cause and think kids can learn and benefit from their message and enjoy it as well,” Phillips said. “This is a group of men who all have the need for a wheelchair for one reason or another. Whether it is MS, debilitating arthritis, paralysis or a loss of limb, all of them face challenges that the rest of us take for granted on a day-to-day basis. These men all value who they are and what they have to offer others. They have not given up on themselves or in life. They represent the Cougar Character Pillar of Perseverance and, thus, their visit to Sutter is a great reminder to our kids that everyone has a chance to succeed in life regardless of circumstance.”

The Cagers, who have about 15 members, try to visit 10 middle schools in the Sacramento area every year in their outreach program, which also serves as a fundraising effort. Members of the Cagers are in wheelchairs for various reasons. Carter has multiple sclerosis, while others have spinal injuries, amputations, cerebral palsy or various other disabilities.

The Cagers have two teams, a competitive team and a recreational team of which Carter is a member. Though the Cagers are all in the wheelchairs, they can play ball.

“We usually give teams a 50-point head start and beat them by about 20,” Carter said. “Obviously, they’re not used to doing what we do. It’s not easy to make the wheelchair go like you want it to go. It’s a challenge.”

When multiple sclerosis sent Carter to a wheelchair, he was looking for something to do and he found it in basketball with the Cagers.

“It’s something that has become very special to me,” Carter said. “The camaraderie I’ve received is important and they obviously understand what it’s like to lose your mobility.”

The Cagers meet twice a week to play basketball and play in six tournaments annually against teams from Reno, Berkeley, Redding, Santa Rosa and San Jose.

“The physical activity I get from playing not only keeps me active, but I have more energy and it gives me satisfaction and an ego boost. I feel almost reborn since originally getting my wheelchair.”