Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Who Knew We Could Play Wheelchair Basketball?

By Sonya Mau, MCLP Executive Director

It was a sight to see – 12 MCLP alumni, along with our founder Phani Aytam, playing wheelchair basketball.  It all took place Saturday, April 21, at Kingsley Junior High where we played against the amazing University of Illinois Wheelchair Basketball Team.

Yes, we lost to that wonderful group of athletes.  But that’s OK because the game was all about raising money in support of LIFE Center for Independent Living.

Joining Phani in Team MCLP line-up were:  2012 Graduates Anand Bhende, Carrie Broquard, Johnny Nguyen and Henry Walker; 2011 Graduates Paul Hursey (associate coach), Peter Stroyan, Nida Kazim and Yoon Yim; 2010 Graduates Bert Neptune, Gary Williams, Mark Walcott; great friend of MCLP, Chuck DiVerte, friend of LIFE center Matt DeMatteo, and our coach Rory Nolan.

Would you believe each class even shared the honors for the first baskets made in the first half?  Peter Stroyan (2011) struck first. Then Johnny Nguyen (2012) made our second basket.  Finally from the inaugural class of 2010, Gary Williams put one in.

Macaria Lopez, Kari Sandhaas, Sally and Ken Zuhn, Sandeepa Sangras Aytam, Myra and George Gordon, Carol Hreha, and me could be found rooting in the stand with friends, family and children.

It was a thrilling game and a festive afternoon. With only 1 hour to practice in wheelchairs, our intrepid team of 15 fought for  6 points in the first half and wound up with a respectable 28 points at the end of the game. The U of I team scored 56 points, but they had more practice!

We might have done better if more than five players were allowed on the court at one time! Seriously, I was impressed by Team MCLP’s innovative and diverse plays!  Here’s a good example, the U of I team played fast break well – OK they flew across the court.  There was no way our alumni could keep up. So Team MCLP did the opposite.

Every time Team MCLP got the ball, they slowed things down. U of I didn’t know how to respond, at first. Then to my happy surprise (and U of I’s unhappy surprise) MCLP stationed a player at their end of the court and began lobbing the ball down court for a clear shot.  That worked for a while too.  In the end we lost, but every player said s/he had a great time.

Everyone off the court had fun too. A  Lion cheerleading squad composed of kids with disability created amazing 3-story cheers!  A young choir sang the Star-Spangled Banner and an amazing puppet show entertained kids and adults.  A number of MCLP friends and alumni won baskets at the silent auction. 

In fact, everyone won because all the proceeds went toward helping others at the LIFE Center for Independent Living and to two scholarships to the University of Illinois youth Wheelchair sports camps this summer.

Like many things in life, even with leadership decisions, there is no second chance. LIFE invites a different organization each year. So our one-in-a-lifetime chance to play wheelchair basketball as an MCLP team is over.

But we can all say “it was worth it and it was fun.”   May we all say that about our leadership journeys with MCLP and beyond!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Inspired Graduate Ready to Make a Difference

By Craig Luchtefeld, 2012 MCLP Graduate
I spent last Saturday night celebrating what’s right in our community and the world with people I care about the most. It just doesn’t get any better.

It was graduation for my MCLP Class of 2012.

It was a celebration of those who make the program possible. It was a celebration of the family and friends that sacrificed their time to allow us to participate fully. It was a celebration of those that strive to make a positive impact within our community. It was a celebration of those that strive to do the right thing, no matter the circumstances.

What made the night so special for me was spending it with my family, my fellow classmates, and my co-workers. These are the folks who inspire me to do my very best, each and every day. So, to be able to relax on a beautiful Saturday night, alongside the people who matter to me the most, to celebrate and be inspired by local leaders as well as Paul Rusesabagina, is truly something I will always cherish.

Graduation marks the end of our nine-month journey. And, it also signifies the beginning of something bigger and better. We’ve been given the tools to make a difference within our community and our world. Personally, I’m very excited to take what I’ve learned and pay it forward.