NEW LENOX, Ill. - A traveling basketball clinic is giving kids the shot of a lifetime.
It’s introducing the sport to children who have never played before.
"They hear wheelchair basketball, and they think it's something that's a pity party, but it's not, wheelchair basketball is a sport," said Keith Wallace the Executive Director of the Lincolnway Special Recreation District in New Lenox.
Eight-year-old Dana Cuervo has attended several of the traveling suburban clinics hosted by the Lincolnway district.
"I get to shoot baskets," she said.
"My number one worry is that she will not have friends. She wouldn't feel good about herself and having this opportunity it's phenomenal," said her mother, Kimberly Dorencz-Cuervo.
Wallace decided to take the clinics on the road.
"Somebody needs to push this envelope and a lot of these kids don't know they can play at a high level or go to college for free because no one's pushed the envelope for them," he said.
He wants to expand the number of wheelchair basketball teams at park districts across the state.
He says while the Special Olympics cater to athletes with intellectual disabilities, there aren’t many opportunities for children with physical disabilities.
"Most coaches look for height, I look for people with limps and people in chairs," he joked.
He’s got some of the best coaching help in the country. Jake Williams is a two-time Paralympic gold medalist.
He played with Team USA and just retired playing professionally in Europe.
"Ultimately I feel like I've done everything with the sport of wheelchair basketball that I have ever wanted to do so now it's just trying to build the next generation," Williams said.
Back on the court, kids are learning drills and working together to maneuver the balls and their chairs. Dana says she’s so "happy"!
Her new friend Vakaras Umvrasas said, "I think I’m going to play again."
The clinics are free. The next one is April 13th at 5pm at the Midlothian Park District.
To sign up: firstname.lastname@example.org