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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Wheels of steel become a big deal

Sunday, January 2, 2011

State Sen. Jim Tracy must have missed the page on 'traveling' in his basketball rulebook last year.
(Submitted photo)
Well, it's officially January, so it must be getting close to time for that great annual sport tradition.

Super Bowl? What Super Bowl?

We're talking about the Rollin' Round Robin Classic Wheelchair Basketball Tournament in Bell Buckle Jan. 29. Presented by the Bell Buckle Parks & Rec Department with Heritage Medical Center, the tournament is now in its second year, filling the Webb School gym with athletes and fans for an all-day affair.

"It was such a positive, inspirational and fun event last year, we just had to do it again," said Carla Webb, Bell Buckle's first lady and the driving force behind the tournament. "I had so many people who came up to me and said they wanted to help -- that just doesn't happen."


Webb got the idea from watching her nephew, Jared Arambula, play for the University of Alabama wheelchair basketball team.

"People come thinking it's going to be sad and slow, but oh my gosh! It's so exciting!" she said before last year's tournament. "The wheelchairs just add that speed! And when someone falls out -- and they do, even though they're strapped in -- no one picks them up. The game just goes on and none of the players or the refs will help them up. They have to do it themselves."

Both the men's and women's teams (which has won back-to-back national championships) from Alabama were invited, as were teams from The Shepherd Center in Atlanta.

"The teams said they have never been treated as well anywhere else as they were here," said Webb. "This year, we've got another team coming -- the Music City Lightning."

Two-day event

More teams aren't all that's been added, either. Besides the all-day, multi-game tournament on Jan. 29, there will be two free games on the 28th, beginning at 6 p.m.

The Saturday day event costs $5 per person, although anyone in a wheelchair is admitted free. What does that $5 get you? Besides the five serious games, you'll get to see an exhibition game featuring State Sen. Jim Tracy, State Rep. Pat Marsh, and local coaches, dignitaries and celebrities.

"It's like the Harlem Globetrotters -- all the comedy, but without the talent," said Webb. "It's hilarious. Last year, the other coach took pity on us and only sent in Jared against our team."

Jared won.

Laughter isn't the only thing Webb finds appealing about the event. After last year's game, a young man approached her. His father had recently become disabled and withdrawn. The tournament was the first event he'd been able to get his father to get out for, and the older man saw, inspired him and made him realize there were things he could do himself, said Webb. The son shook her hand.

"'Thank you for giving me my father back,' he told me," she said. "That's why I encourage anyone who is handicapped to come out and see this tournament, it really will inspire you."

Music and more

One of the celebrity players in the exhibition game is an honest to goodness celebrity -- Kristin Osborn of SHeDAISY, the country music trio of sisters.

Oh, that's right. Another thing your $5 will get you is musical entertainment as well as sports entertainment. Local musician Kyle Kraft will perform, as will the Cascade High School Cheerleaders. The Brig. Gen. Shofner Detachment USMC Color Guard will be present during the show.

SHeDAISY will perform a few songs -- all three sisters present.

"We were so excited about that," said Webb. "Then Kristin said she wanted to be in the exhibition game!"

Prized prizes

Last year, the tournament offered a Shoot the Hoop Contest, in which the winner split the pot with the Parks & Rec Department. This year, the winner gets to keep the whole $1,000 pot, and there will be more than one winner.

"We've got a youth division this year," said Webb. "And a youth wheelchair division."

Not only does a $1 donation get a chance to be drawn for the contest, it can also be drawn for door prizes throughout the day.

"After we draw a ticket, we'll put it back in the pot," said Webb. "You can win prizes all day long -- and we've had some great prizes donated this year!"

For a $20 donation, you can get 30 tickets -- the length of a free-throw.

There will also be plenty to nibble on while you're watching the games, and plenty to see when you get up to stretch your legs. Bell Buckle Café is offering $5 plates of barbecue or pulled chicken from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and concessions from the Webb parents association will be available all day. There will be vendors and information booths set up to visit, including medical booths sponsored by Heritage.

"We even have some doctors playing in the exhibition game," said Webb, laughing. "I think that's a good thing -- we might need a doctor in the house with our team."

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