I was asked to come to Canby High School Friday night and do a radio broadcast to promote the SMSU Wheelchair Basketball Team. I did not know what to expect. I have never been to a wheelchair basketball game or around anyone that played the sport. I made some new friends and got a education about people with disabilities and learned about wheelchair basketball.

Jenna and her son Wes

The Canby Rotary Club and Marshall and Canby Lions Clubs held a fundraiser for the Southwest Minnesota State University Wheelchair Basketball Team. Kris Cleveland contacted me and asked if I could come and interview some of the players, coaches and get their stories and promote the sport. I set up my table and Q-92 banner just inside the gym. The team had arrived and immediately had something to eat and got ready to play some Canby residents. I had the opportunity to interview the head coach of the Mustangs Derek Klinkner. He has been coach for 10 years and arrived at SMSU on a scholarship to play football before his accident. As he was telling me his story as to how he came to be in a wheelchair I thought this is one tough guy. I interviewed a couple of players and they shared their stories and what wheelchair basketball means to them. It was very emotional for me listening to them speak. I think if I was confined to a wheelchair I would be a mess, but these guys are strong and inspiring.

Lew Shaver, former SMSU Wheelchair basketball coach.

I also talked on the radio with Lew Shaver. Lou is a legend at SMSU. He started the program in 1969! Won 4 national championships and coached the Olympic team. We had a great visit. I shocked Lou when I told him a relative of mine played for him in the 80’s. When I mentioned Dick Crumb, Lou’s eyes opened wide and a big smile came across his face. He said he loves Dick Crumb and they are good friends today. Small world.

Best part of the evening came when I met 3 year old Wes Schlimme who is in a wheelchair and his mom Jenna. Earlier I was visiting with Lou’s wife Judy and she showed me a kids book and a illustration of a small boy in a wheelchair. The book is about a boy and about inclusion. Judy said this boy is here tonight. So ironically, Wes and his family were right next to my radio broadcasting equipment. So I had Jenna and Wes put on the headsets and we went on the radio. Jenna told me they live in Ortonville and I asked her why they were here watching wheelchair basketball. I’ll never forget her answer. “I’m here to show Wes that you can do great things in a wheelchair! And he loves watching basketball. I want him to see men in wheelchairs playing basketball.” That was powerful and made my night.

I walked out of the Canby gym Friday night a better person because I met some amazing people.

Tony Ourada - State Farm ad

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