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Group “rolling” out new understanding for campus community

Community Engagement Mar 14, 2024

When you watch the River City Rollers, you’re getting a new perspective on the game of basketball. For those participating, the experience is even more eye-opening.

Photos from a River City Rollers practice Feb. 15, 2024 on campus at IU South Bend. (Photo by Joe Giczi/Indiana University South Bend) River City Rollers has partnered with Indiana University South Bend to help build awareness for adaptive sports through wheel-chair basketball. It’s been around for half a century and has encouraged both able-bodied and disabled athletes to enjoy the sport of wheel-chair basketball.

The group started using the IU South Bend Student Activities Center for practices in the summer of 2023. Practices happen most Thursdays from 7 to 9 p.m. Students can join the basketball game in a chair during these practices.

In addition to helping build awareness for the challenges of adaptive sports, the group also provides opportunities for students on campus. Erinn Kelley, director of professional engagement for IU South Bend, saw the great opportunity of the partnership,

“RCR needed help with marketing, coordination, and health assessments for players and IUSB students need internship partners and opportunities for real-world experience,” she said.

Kaylee Eby is currently working as a marketing promotion intern for the group.

“It’s good for students to get out and play. Participating they always say they have a blast,” Eby said.

She has been working around campus to help build awareness of the partnership and has been getting a lot of behind-the-scenes experience in the marketing field.

Joe McTigue is the current coordinator and coach for the team. He was 21 when he broke his back and became paralyzed from the chest down.

“He was a huge athlete before the accident and wheel-chair basketball has been a gift to him post-injury in terms of keeping active and getting exercise,” Kelley wrote about her brother.

This outlet is an important goal along with the great opportunity for students to get real-world experience.

“Building awareness for disability with either learning (visual) or even participating in the sport,” Kelley said.

“RCR has saved my life. It’s like a family – RCR are family and friends. They are there when you need them!” said Don Berndt, who has been a member of RCR for 40 years.

Hayleigh Barker, an IU South Bend student said hand protection is recommended and noted it was a great upper arm work-out after mentioning how sweaty she got playing.

“I’m going to share with friends and definitely come back!” Barker said.

A similar program was started at the University of Michigan in 2019. With good community support here, IU South Bend is looking forward to where this partnership could lead.

“An IU adaptive sports team as an end goal is this partnership,” Kelley said.

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