CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- One of the most-anticipated games of the school year at Monacan High School has able-bodied students go head-to-head with athletes from Sportable, a non-profit which helps young people with disabilities.
Each player must play from a wheelchair and the competition is fierce. But in the end, the score doesn’t matter.
Tickets to the game were selling faster than the daily lunch special in the school's cafeteria.
“I think they’re buying it because it is something different,” Kaitlyn Harris said.
For Harris and Emma Carlstrom, ticket sales are a fast break lesson in economics. The two juniors never anticipated a crush of so many classmates clamoring to buy tickets.
“Oh my God. So Busy," Carlstrom said. "So much more busy than we could have imagined."
Chief’s athletics usually draw massive crowds and this competition was no different. But on this day fans watched a showdown like no other.
“So, students are real excited to come out and watch them out of their element and try something new,” Harris said.
Monacan went head-to-head with Sportable, a non-profit helping young people like Elijah Bondeson.
“Don’t underestimate us -- our disabilities,” Bondeson said. “We can do sports. Don’t say you can’t.”
The 20-year-old was diagnosed with Spina Bifida at an early age. The debilitating condition affecting his spinal cord never keeps him sidelined: from racing to baseball, the wheelchair athlete competes with a smile while finding comfort on the court.
The basketball junkie considers himself an offensive threat.
“I can shoot threes,” Bondeson said.
One stipulation for this game is each competitor must compete in wheelchairs leveling the playing field.
From the first play it’s clear the Chief’s opponents are nearly unbeatable. Baskets rack up for Sportable, while Monacan lags far behind. And that is the point of this game.
“I am so impressed at what they can do," Junior Blakely Koob said. "I know I couldn’t do what they do."
Edward Miller’s life changed in an instant five years ago.
“I got shot five times coming back from a party,” Miller said.
Gunfire left the 21-year-old paralyzed from the chest down. Edward is adjusting to life looking up.
“Bringing basketball to me just brought out a whole new world,” Miller said. “My life is going great. Without Sportable and wheelchair basketball I don’t know where I would be. My life is going pretty good.”
The former football player takes great pride showing others he still got game.
“I was real honored to break that barrier between me and the kids, because some students look at us strange,” Miller said.
In the end the matchup wasn’t even close. While the score was forgettable, the lessons for Monacan fans and athletes will linger forever.
“It was incredible. My arms are so sore. But I have a whole new respect level for Sportable. It was amazing,” Senior Andrew Fuller said.
It’s the day everyone rolled to victory.
“We can do things you guys can, except we’re in wheelchairs," Miller said.
This memorable basketball game between the Chiefs of Monacan and the athletes of Sportable Richmond was a fundraiser planned entirely by students.
The organizers raised $1,250 that will be donated to Sportable and the Special Olympics.
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