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Falcon Wheelchair Team recognized at Board of Ed meeting

May 3, 2018
J.T. Whitehouse , The Town Crier

The Austintown Fitch Falcon Wheelchair Basketball Team was among the highlights of the April 26 Board of Education meeting. Lisa Followay, director for the program launched through Adaptive Sports Programs of Ohio (ASPO) said it all began in 2015.

In 2015 ASPO began setting up the program in Ohio that was modeled after a similar one in Georgia that had been running since 2006.

"As the executive director of ASPO, I implemented and am spearheading the development of the program in Ohio," Followay said.

Article Photos

Photo by J.T. Whitehouse, Town Crier
Falcon Wheelchair Basketball team program director Lisa Followay with the help of coach Cara Hahn and therapists Angel Suarez and Linda Ankerman were praised for their efforts in starting Mahoning County’s first wheelchair team. They were recognize at the April 26 Board of Education meeting and are pictured here with Superintendent Vince Colaluca.

The first team in the 2015-16 school year was the Wooster Generals Wheelchair Basketball Team. They had competition the next school year with the addition of the Massillon Tigers. In the 2017-18 school year, the competition grew with the addition of the Tallmadge Blue Devils, Plain Local Eagles, and Austintown Fitch.

Followay said the program is geared to kids in grades one through twelve, but Austintown presently is in the one through eighth grade range.

"This is for the students who normally couldn't play sports," Followay said.

Not all the students in the program are wheelchair-bound. To qualify for the team, the student needs to have a primary, permanent mobility impairment but does not need to utilize a wheelchair every day.

The basketball wheelchairs are the equalizer, and provide a way for many different disability types to participate in sport.

"Additionally, we do have a reverse integration component, meaning we allow up to five non-disabled students the opportunity to also play on the wheelchair basketball team," Followay said. "Of those five, only 2 can play per game. The focus is always on the students with disabilities."

ASPO provides the basketball wheelchairs to each school district that participates. The chairs cost $2,000 a piece which can be cost prohibitive for some districts. The chairs have the slanted wheels for quicker, easier maneuverability and stability.

Other than the wheelchairs, the game is not much different from standard basketball. The ball and basket height are similar to typical basketball, with minor variations for the nuances of wheelchair basketball.

Fitch presently has seven members on the Falcon Wheelchair Team. They are under Coach Cara Hahn.

"They did great this season," she said. "They made some big improvements."

Followay said the addition of Fitch to Ohio's line up has been a good one. She is hopeful that the Falcon's success will enable more Mahoning County school districts to be included as resources and equipment will allow.



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