WINGHAM’S Luke Bailey has seen the amazing benefits of a Variety wheelchair grant which allowed him to receive a custom made wheel for basketball.
With International Wheelchair Day approaching on Friday, Variety – the Children’s Charity is urging Australians to give a thought and possibly some spare change to assist its efforts to fund a child’s wheelchair which can cost from $3000 to over $30,000.
At birth Luke was diagnosed with spinal sacral agenisis, an abnormal development of the lower spine that left him confined to a wheelchair.
Not deterred by his disability, Luke developed a real flair for wheelchair basketball and even has his sights set on competing at the Paralympics one day.
Since Variety provided him with a customised sports wheelchair, his dream could become a reality sooner than anticipated.
Luke’s mother, Kim explained, “Although Luke only got his first wheelchair at five-years-old, he was playing wheelchair basketball by the time he was six.
“He showed a natural aptitude for it from the outset and once he started high school, began playing competitively, as part of the school’s regular team and recreationally, on the weekends with his friends and siblings.
“Given his flair and enthusiasm and aptitude for the sport, we began hiring a special basketball wheelchair which further improved his performance, but unfortunately the cost of buying one was just too prohibitive.
“While we wanted to do more to accommodate his talent and passion, it was simply not within our means. We were thrilled when Variety stepped in and provided Luke with his own basketball chair.
“He now spends at least four hours a week on the court and loves every minute of it. He is more determined than ever, to compete at an elite level,” she said.
The basketball wheelchair he was granted has been specifically modified with reinforced bars for extra protection as well as angled wheels that allow him to whip around the court and turn with efficiency and ease.
In addition to the obvious physical benefits of wheelchair basketball for a keen sportsman like Luke, the game has also opened up a whole new world socially for him.
“As a child with a disability, it’s been fantastic to have Luke become a welcome and integral part of a sporting team and be able to engage with his peers in such a significant way. It has not only helped develop his social skills but also given other non disabled students a new way to connect with him, with some even getting into wheelchairs to play alongside him,” Kim said.
In 2013, Variety hopes to be able to help more children, like Luke, realise their full potential by encouraging the community to make donations at www.varietynsw.org.au