Class project turns into inclusive sporting event at WIU

Published: Sep. 25, 2022 at 9:43 PM CDT
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MACOMB (WGEM) - On Sunday afternoon, the first ever Western Illinois University Recreation for All event drew wheelchair basketball teams from Lincolnway Special Recreation Association and the University of Illinois.

The event comes as a mission of the WIU Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Administration to promote the campus community learning about adaptive sports. Recreation, Park and Tourism Professor Cindy Piletic taught a disability sports class this past spring.

It was there that she said the idea for a disability sports day on campus grew. Originally designed as a class project, the assignment grew into something that would become a full-fledged reality.

“It was a natural progression to go ahead and create a disability sport day on campus and they [students] all bought in, so we started building that project for the class,” Piletic said.

While no adaptive sports team exists on campus, Piletic said she hopes that Sunday’s event will be a step in that direction. Additionally, with the hopes of making Recreation for All an annual event.

University of Illinois wheelchair basketball player Alicia Guerrero believes bringing more events like this to different school’s will create awareness for inclusiveness.

“Growing up, I didn’t really get to see this kind of stuff going on and I’m already seeing younger athletes out here being able to talk with people and share their experiences,” Guerrero said.

University of Illinois wheelchair basketball player Shawn Sloan noted that some aspiring wheelchair athletes are fearful of taking the leap into organized sports.

“Just being able to see people that are willing to see our sport and be willing to learn more is great,” Sloan said. “That’s the first step is starting to open up and trying to get more people involved.”

Andrew Beuteo is one athlete who did take the leap, and at a very young age. Just before turning two years old, Beuteo became paralyzed from the waist down from transverse myelitis. However, that didn’t stop him from picking up a basketball and getting on the court.

“I was going through my hospital and they were playing wheelchair basketball just for a fun event, and ever since then I fell in love with it and I’ve been playing since I was five years old,” Beuteo said.

While Sunday’s event concluded with a wheelchair basketball game, members of the WIU community had the opportunity to engage in adaptive sports like beep baseball and sitting volleyball.

Lincolnway Special Recreation Association Executive Director Keith Wallace said there are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to wheelchair sports. He added that giving those who don’t have a physical handicap the opportunity to try adaptive sports is a good learning experience.

“Until you actually get in the chair and you see the sweat and the competitiveness and everything everybody’s doing, you’ll learn to love it really fast,” Wallace said.

WIU received six sport wheelchairs to be used to educate the campus community about adapted sports.

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