ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England - Chants of “Let’s go orange, let’s go!” battled the equally optimistic “Go blue!” shouts of students from the Royal Air Force Lakenheath Elementary school in a packed auditorium Oct. 22 as the Bury Bombers displayed their wheelchair basketball skills.
The Bury St. Edmunds-based wheelchair basketball club is compiled of both abled-bodied and disabled players who use wheelchairs to appreciate the game of basketball through a different method.
“I saw an article in the paper on them [the Bury Bombers] six years ago and thought that they would be great for our schools ‘We Care and Respect Everyone’ theme,” said Mark Love, instruction support specialist for grade one at the elementary school. “What’s really cool is that children who have been here for years are always so excited to see the Bombers and ride in the chairs.”
During the Bombers visit, kids gain knowledge in the sport of wheelchair basketball while also being instilled with respect of persons with disabilities.
“The thing I like about it is that children are honest. They ask us questions that most adults won’t,” said Christopher Rix, team guard. “It helps them learn about the sport, people with disabilities and how they can help.”
Children started the day with a greeting and exhibition match from the team to demonstrate their skills, followed by separate class sessions teaching the kids about the sport and even letting them take basketball shots from the chairs.
“Shooting basketballs was my favorite part!” yelled 8-year-old Ian Rutland, child of Chasity Rutland and Staff Sgt. Robert Rutland, 48th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron aircraft armament systems. “If I could see them again, I would.”
The team prides itself in being open to all people, no matter age or ability, while maintaining less pressure than other teams. They maintain a firm belief that with the Bury Bombers: “All are welcome.”
“I’ve been playing for 25 years, so when I found out that I was diagnosed with bowel cancer, me and my family decided that I should give it a go again,” said Paul Guest, team captain and 18-year Marine Royal U.K. Commando veteran. “I can play with my kids, and they can enjoy the sport with no pressure.”
Guest’s son, Oliver, is also an avid member of the team, showing that age is not a factor in team selection.
“I joined because of my dad and his disability,” said 10-year-old Oliver Guest, team guard. “I love it. It’s just about practicing and getting better.”
The Bury Bombers host training sessions at 6:30 p.m. every Thursday at the Culford School Sports and Tennis Centre in Bury St. Edmunds for individuals wanting to test out their skills.
For more information on the team, contact Jill Anderson at 01284 728 458 or 07766 817 685.