By Justin Joseph | [email protected]
On Thursday the New York Police Department hosted its annual Queens South Wheelchair Basketball game at Law Enforcement High School.
At the event, the NYPD faced off against the Disabled American Veterans in a basketball game to bring awareness to those who live their daily lives being in a wheelchair and to raise funds for the team to compete in upcoming national basketball tournaments.
“ Its very humbling, to see these men out here going through the difficulty that they are going through, yet having a good time,” said Sergeant James Clarke, who ran the event. “They make us appreciate life a lot more.”
Clarke got the idea from one of the clergy women who started it back in the 1990’s. When Clarke heard about the idea, he thought it would be good to put into place in the Queens area for its eight precincts. So, starting in 2017 they began to host the events, but it got put on pause due to covid. They NYPD didn’t want to put anyone at risk due to the aggressive new virus, so this was the first year they held the event since pre-covid.
Jose Mendez serves as the coach of the disabled team, who are loosely affiliated with the Brooklyn Nets and compete in Division III of the National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA.) It’s his third year serving as the coach and is the second time his team has come to compete at the event.
“It’s a lot of fun for the team and also brings awareness that it’s hard to push a chair, it’s not that easy, “Mendez said.
“It’s important that we do this with the police department and anybody else who needs an awareness on how it is to be in a wheelchair, that’s why we bring the chairs so they can see what it feels like.”
The team has a tournament coming up in Washington D.C in March and are using that to prepare for nationals which take place in April. The funding for this event will help them with their upcoming trips to the tournament. During the event they announced that they received donations from the Wheelchair Sports Federation, who helps them with the chairs and uniforms. They also received donations for the Ney York Yankees and the MLB.
The event had a great turnout, with the Nets taking a 56-15 lead into the intermission. Coming out of the break, to showcase their talent, they reversed each teams score with the Nets now having to claw out of the huge deficit. They ended up coming all the way back to win the game 78-62, but of course, nobody was really keeping score. Everyone was having fun supporting a great cause.
“The police officers realize how fortunate we are,” Clarke said. “We struggle during the game and have a hard time but at the end of the game but we can get out of the wheelchairs, they can’t. It teaches us to be thankful for what we have and think of those who are a little less fortunate.”