August 9, 2018
It’s a lesson in living with disabilities
Ian rallies the blue teamBY TONI CASHNELLI
The words “disability” and “defeat” do not belong in the same sentence, according to Jake Counts.
Physically challenged people can do a lot of things, he says – and that includes playing sports. To prove his point Jake and his pal, Ian Smith, are staging a wheelchair basketball game at Friars Club in Cincinnati, enlisting children who normally run instead of roll.
None of the kids has ever been in a wheelchair. Some have never known a person who used one. And that’s the point, says Annie Timmons, Executive Director of Friars Club, a sponsored ministry of SJB Province. “Hopefully, they’ll realize how hard something like this is” for anyone to master.
Life lessons are part of Friars’ eight-week Summer Program for 5- to 12-year-olds from throughout the city and suburbs. It’s a camp experience without the travel or the mosquitoes – athletics, academics, field trips, arts and crafts – in a safe, supervised setting.
PHOTOS BY TONI CASHNELLIJake Counts and Ian Smith ready to put kids through their paces.It was like bumper cars as kids tried to steer clear of each other.
In five years they’ve held this class more than 120 times at Tristate schools and rec centers. “We’ve worked with up to 750 kids in a school assembly format,” says Ian. The program for this group of 40 starts with Jake sharing his story. Then kids will learn what it’s like to pass, dribble, shoot and rebound – all from a seated position.
With wheelchairs behind them and students in front, Jake and Ian set the mood with blaring music, an anthem to defiance by Jim Morrison and The Doors, Break on Through (To the Other Side). It’s bold, catchy, and very appropriate.
Top, Jake shares tactics with the green team; above, taking her shot.
“Jake went from age 13 to 19 with no sports in his life,” says Ian. “We don’t want that for other kids with disabilities.”
Eventually, Jake learned “I could do just about everything I could do before the accident. I just had to learn to do things differently.” He demonstrates with his basketball-adapted wheelchair, a compact model built for speed and agility with a low-slung back and inward-slanting wheels. The design minimizes the impact of collisions, Jake says, drawing whoops and squeals from the kids with a series of hairpin turns and sudden stops.
PHOTOS BY Scott Obrecht, OFMTop, Jake tells kids his story; above, snacks are part of the Summer Program.Mikayla ChessBrianna Colbert
“Make that music loud!” Ian orders the scorekeeper, who obliges with an onslaught of tunes by rappers Drake and Cardi B.
Fasten your seat belts.
Strapped into wheelchairs, kids quickly learn how much energy and coordination it takes to play this game. “Oh, man!” shouts a frustrated boy as he struggles to propel the chair and pass the ball. Sideline spectators and coaches are in perpetual motion, some shouting directions – “Catch it!” “Shoot it!” – and others gyrating to the music.
Making it look easy, Jake weaves around teammates, dribbling the ball in back of his chair, speeding down court and tossing a layup through the hoop. It’s not so easy for the kids. They’re great at passing, but when shot after shot falls short, they wail in frustration.
PHOTOS BY Scott Obrecht, OFM, and TONI CASHNELLITop, A class photo with Jake, left, Ian, top, and Annie Timmons; middle, with slanted wheels and low-slung backs, basketball wheelchairs are designed for speed and agility.; above, Alyse Smith, seated, made the winning basket.
Ready to take her turn, Annie Timmons climbs onto a wheelchair and enters the game. It’s 18-17 with two minutes to go, and Jake takes a long shot. He scores! Ian comes back with two baskets in a row. Alone down court, Annie waits for a pass, ready to make an easy shot. But no! Ian swoops in and steals it.
The score is 24-24 as the buzzer sounds. “We’re gonna go to overtime!” Ian announces. “Whoever scores first wins the game!” Mikayla and Brianna fight for the tipoff. Teams scramble for the ball, arms flailing, wheels churning. The ball is recovered and passed to Alyse Smith, a scrappy 11-year-old in cornrows. She’s ready. Leaning back in her wheelchair, she heaves the ball toward the basket with all her might.
Whoosh! There is pandemonium as players from both sides surround Alyse with whoops of joy. “Nice shot!”
Game over, kids congratulate their opponents with hand slapping and fist-bumping. Later, before they leave, Jake and Ian gather their teams for some parting words.
Face it, Jake says. “Something bad’s gonna happen in life. But also in life, you’ll have positive things to focus on. You can build on that.” And you can help others do the same.
“I would like to put it out to you,” Ian says, “to be a friend if someone is going through a hard time.”
Jake elaborates. “As you go through life, you’re gonna have a lot of pressure to put people in ‘boxes’.” Don’t do it, he says. “You’re gonna have more in common with that person than you think. When you hear talk about ‘THOSE people and us’, remember those differences are what make our community cool.”
Asked “What was most challenging?”, the kids have ready answers. “Dribbling!” “Moving the wheels AND dribbling!” “Dribbling and shooting at the same time!”
Children take for granted that everyone can walk, Annie says. Tomorrow she will ask them, “How would it feel if you had to do this all the time?”
Even in a summer program, “It’s good for kids to have a challenge.” And just as important, “It’s good for them to appreciate what they have.”
Since 2011 Skool Aid has mounted summer and afterschool enrichment programs for children in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. They aim to foster good behavior and help kids develop new interests and talents in an atmosphere of fun. Donations are welcome, and teacher/presenters are always in demand: skoolaid.com
The Summer Program at Friars Club is fueled by donations and the work of volunteer tutors and coaches. If you’d like to help with next year’s program, please e-mail Ben Klayer (email@example.com) or call 513-488-8777.
7 ways to prevent cancer
PHOTO BY SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
Want to cut your risk in half? The root of cancer development appears to be altered genetic code (DNA) within cells. Genetic alterations may be inherited, but numerous environmental or lifestyle factors can cause DNA alterations and damage. While you can’t erase previous DNA damage, you may be able to prevent the last critical bit of damage that tips a cell to becoming cancerous. Below are seven of the most effective ways to do just that:
– Michelle Viacava, RN
Pinatas? Fire truck sprays? Water slides? The parish picnic is not what it used to be, judging by these photos taken last Sunday at Transfiguration in Southfield, Mich. Pastor Jeff Scheeler shared a bit of the fun on Facebook.
BY MARK SOEHNER, OFM
How do you deal with such despair? Moving is disorienting, no matter how often a person has done it. Bruce and Bryant Hausfeld stopped in recently. They’ve moved so many times that they switch up the biblical phrase, “pilgrims and strangers” and describe themselves as “strange pilgrims”. Anytime a person changes residences, it does feel strange. As our Howell Street Friary moves to join Pleasant Street Friary, I’m returning to a neighborhood I knew long ago that is now quite different.
My introduction to Over-the-Rhine in Cincinnati was in 1981 when I moved to Zacchaeus Friary. When I left in 1983 I knew our neighbors and the rhythm of our street. We lived with about eight men without a home, most of whom stayed with us friars a couple of months until they could establish residency and become eligible for benefits. Then we helped them establish their own apartment.
Over-the-Rhine has changed dramatically, from being the poorest neighborhood in Cincinnati to an up-and-coming place for young people. A portion of it now has upscale apartments and condos, artisan retailers, boutique shops and great small restaurants. But the area around Findlay Market, where Pleasant Street Friary stands, is still a place for very mixed incomes.
Moving back has been a learning experience. I was finishing my prayer time early Sunday morning when I heard a person howling in our parking lot. I looked out the window to see a shirtless man in his 30s striking garbage cans, hitting himself, shrieking profanities and jumping up and down on red rental bikes in rage. He eventually moved down the street, and with the coast clear, I went out for one of my infrequent jogs.
In too many cities, there are people still living on the streets.As I was finishing this jog I began to hear his shrieks again. I started to pray, asking God to give me the right words should I see him. I spotted him on the other side of the street, picking up refuse, wrappers and pop cans. After he started down his list of obscenities, I shouted across the street, “Good morning!” He seemed startled and responded with, “Oh, sir, I was not talking to you. Please forgive me.” When I approached him, he told me that he was not worth talking to, that he was unforgivable. I remarked that he was picking up the garbage and putting it in containers, so he was doing something good for others. He could only tell me he was unforgivable, then shriek, howl, yell. I walked silently with him. Familiar with the meltdowns of some schizophrenics I lived with at Zacchaeus Friary, I just walked as he shrieked, and silently prayed, giving him space. His tone became softer. When we parted, I asked if there was anything I could do for him. He said no.
My thoughts were of Jesus healing the Gerasene demoniac. In this case, healing started with the removal of my fear. I saw the danger, but also saw that this man was my brother and needed reminding, as I do, of his real identity in God. Did my silent intervention help him, or was he just tired of shouting? I thought of the homeless in Cincinnati who were recently forced to move from a place where they had set up camp. I wondered about the many refugees seeking asylum in our country who are turned away and sent back to violence, even torture. If that were me, I would be shrieking, too.
And I thought of the Gerasene neighbors, who after seeing the man named Legion fully clothed and of sound mind, asked Jesus to move away from there. Upsetting the way things are, restoring a possessed man to becoming a beloved brother, can cause others to see the initiator as strange, as one to be expelled himself.
I think that in my recent move to Pleasant Street, I, too, am a strange pilgrim, as the Hausfelds call it. Returning to any neighborhood has that bittersweet feel to it. I’m glad I have good brothers to be with me in this journey. And I pray for that howling man to find a place that is not so strange, where he will find rest in his real identity as God’s beloved.
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PHOTOS BY TONI CASHNELLIJake Counts and Ian Smith ready to put kids through their paces.It was like bumper cars as kids tried to steer clear of each other.Today’s topic, Disability Awareness, is serious stuff. But to make their point, teachers must make it fun. That’s no problem for Ian, President/CEO, and Jake, Program Director for an enrichment program called Skool Aid, which expands kids’ horizons with music, fitness, creative arts, drama, tutoring and more. To lead this class Ian recruited Jake, a bilateral amputee who played professional wheelchair basketball and competed in the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing, China.
“We expect you guys to be listening!” exclaims Jake, making sure that kids attach a Top, Jake shares tactics with the green team; above, taking her shot.“Mr.” to his and Ian’s names. As he explains the loss of his legs 25 years ago at the age of 13 – he tried to hop a train and fell under it – his young audience is spellbound, reverentially quiet. “The rest of my body works fine,” Jake assures them. He says the accident crushed his spirit. But at the age of 19, the sports-loving teen made a decision. “I could focus on things I could do or I couldn’t do.” Cheered on by family and friends, he pursued a career in wheelchair basketball.
Rebounds are a mess. At one point, five wheelchairs are logjammed in the rush to retrieve a loose ball. In the fourth quarter, it’s 13-12 in favor of the green team, and PHOTOS BY Scott Obrecht, OFM, and TONI CASHNELLITop, A class photo with Jake, left, Ian, top, and Annie Timmons; middle, with slanted wheels and low-slung backs, basketball wheelchairs are designed for speed and agility.; above, Alyse Smith, seated, made the winning basket. Ian rallies his blue troops. “All right; we’re only down one point; we can do this. We need to work together. Make sure you’re open!”
PHOTO BY SHUTTERSTOCK.COMMore than 575,000 people die of cancer every year in the United States. That’s about as many people who die of heart disease each year. It is estimated that about 50 percent or more of cancer cases are preventable.