By Kim Underwood
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools
NOVEMBER 21 – When Reynolds High School invited the Triad Trackers wheelchair basketball team to participate in the school’s annual Thanksgiving assembly, the players were delighted to come.
It was an opportunity, said team captain Tamirat Ives-Rublee, “to show the kids that nothing is impossible – show them that, if you’re in a wheelchair, it doesn’t mean you stop. You can go as far as you want to go.”
On Tuesday morning, five members of the Reynolds boys’ varsity basketball team learned only after they stepped onto the basketball court at Bryson Gym, that they, too, would be playing the game using wheelchairs. As the Triad Trackers helped the Reynolds players strap themselves into wheelchairs designed for athletic competitions, they offered tips on playing basketball while using a chair.
The annual Thanksgiving assembly at Reynolds goes back at least as far as the days of Claude Joyner, who was principal from 1933 to 1962. In the early days, members of the housekeeping staff received a turkey and other food. In recent years, the Key Club has spearheaded a canned-food drive in support of Crisis Control Ministry.
Before the game, Brady Buchanan, the Key Club president; Thomas Edmundson, the vice president; and Cole Fuller, the secretary, announced that the food drive had collected 22,258 items.
After the assembly, the members of the Key Club and club adviser Seth Beale would be loading the food into trucks and delivering it to Crisis Control. They had already loaded one truck and parked it in front of the gym so that students going into the assembly could see a bit of what had been collected. Some of the food came from Reynolds students bringing food to their classrooms. Key Club member Seth Gatto said that he liked that the entire school community had participated. “It’s a great way to help the community.”
Other food came from people in the wider community. “We got around 300 cans just from our neighborhood,” said Buchanan, who collected cans with his brother, Riley, one of the Reynolds players who played the Trackers.
“It’s just a great service project to help feed a lot of people,” said Edmundson.
Terry Hicks, the choral-music teacher at Reynolds, organized the assembly. He heard about the Trackers from drama teacher Linda Moody, whose son Daniel plays for the team.
“In the last couple of decades,” Hicks said, “we've tried to use the Thanksgiving assembly as a time to challenge/inspire the student as a person. I think it is vital to have rich interactions/dialogues and experiences to inspire the students. I want them to use that knowledge in ways that have meaning and inspiration.”
During the assembly, singers under Hicks’ direction performed several songs and English teacher Pamela Henderson-Sansour learned that the student body had voted to dedicate the 2013 yearbook to her.
With the rest of the school cheering from the bleachers, the Trackers and Reynolds started the first of two 10-minute halves. Shooting from a seated position was clearly a challenge for the members of the Reynolds team, and only 57 seconds were left on the clock when Reynolds scored for the first time. At half-time, the score was 12-2 in favor of the Trackers.
During the break, the Trackers came to the center of the court, introduced themselves – the one named Dean Smith received bonus cheers – and talked about how they came to use a wheelchair. For Ibes-Rubles, it was illness – polio. For the others, it was an accident, in some cases an accident associated with a poor decision, such as driving too fast. Tim Rankin said that, if he hadn’t let peer pressure sway him, he wouldn’t have been in the situation that resulted in the accident. He talked about the importance of not bowing to peer pressure or doing anything that some part of you knows isn’t right.
“If you feel within you that it’s wrong, say, ‘No,’’’ Rankin said. “Always do the right thing.”
Before the second half started, the Trackers said they were going to flop the score so that Reynolds would start the second half ahead 12-2. The members of the Reynolds team were fast learners, and they scored three times in the second half, including one three-pointer. The Trackers continued to score and won 20-19.
Afterward, the Reynolds players said they had enjoyed playing the Trackers. “It was really fun,” said Parker Smith. “They were so much faster than us. It was hard to guard them.”
“It was good to experience what it’s like to be in a wheelchair,” said Riley Buchanan. “It was completely different.”
“It was a great experience,” said Hanif Bilal.