Driving a new set of wheels



By Garrett Wymer

To truly understand someone it may not take walking a mile in his or her shoes — it may take sitting in his or her wheelchair.

Pi Kappa Phi fraternity hosted a wheelchair basketball philanthropic event on Wednesday night to benefit Push America.  According to its Web site, Push America is an organization that is “building leaders of tomorrow by serving people with disabilities today.”

The money raised from the event will aid mentally and physically disabled children, said Tyler Frazier, a telecommunications junior and Pi Kappa Phi member. Frazier said Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Hospital donated the wheelchairs for the fraternity to use, so facilitating the event did not cost the fraternity.

Pi Kappa Phi’s national organization owns Push America, so it was only natural the UK chapter worked with them for the philanthropy event, Frazier said. The fraternity got the idea of wheelchair basketball because of the strong ties UK has to the sport.

“UK has such a rich basketball tradition,” he said. “(We wanted to) show people basketball from the side of the disabled.”

But those in attendance did not see the high-octane, polished attack that characterized the UK basketball team this season.

The sounds of the game were even different. The squeak of tennis shoes on the wood-paneled floor was absent, replaced by the sound of wheels spinning. And one could hear the players’ frustration, though mixed with laughter.

The players’ futility became evident — the first game took 10 minutes to play. Each game was to five points.

“Wheelchair basketball players are tougher than regular basketball players,” said communications sophomore Andrew Burns.

“It totally makes you realize how lucky you are to be able to use your legs,” he said. “Because you realize how much you need to use your legs.”

Frazier said the goal of the event was empathy training,highlighting one of Push America’s core values.

Psychology-chemistry junior Austin Jones said the empathy training was successful to a certain limit.

“We were able to use our legs a little, but someone else might not be able to do that,” he said.  “I was able to understand a little bit what it was like, but I’ll never be fully aware unless, God forbid…”

But there is one main difference between playing wheelchair basketball for a philanthropy event and actually being wheelchair-bound, and that is what was bothering Jones.

“I [was able to] just stand up and walk off,” he said.

This was the first wheelchair basketball event Pi Kappa Phi has hosted, but it is something that Frazier hopes will become much more successful in the future.

“I can see this being a big event — it’s something fun, you can laugh with it, get a little exercise,” Frazier said. “And you can come out of it with a little more understanding of people with disabilities.”