Jackson kids to lift up Finland boy

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 Messenger photo by Dedra Cordle
 Students at Jackson Middle School participated in a wheelchair basketball game on March 14 to help a fellow student in the district. This Finland Elementary student suffers from cerebral palsy and needs a wheelchair lift that will allow him to travel with ease.

Students at Jackson Middle School got a lesson in life on March 14 as they participated in the fund raiser "Lift Up Gage," for a South-Western City School student who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. They also learned about life in a wheelchair and got to watch some basketball.

Several unsuspecting students went up against Tony Shaw and Doug Dumas, two members of the Columbus Buckeye Wheelers, which is affiliated with the National Wheelchair Basketball Association, and Shannon Morrissey, who played on the women’s wheelchair basketball team at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

"We wanted to help the students gain a better understanding of the challenges and skills it takes to maneuver a wheelchair and to gain an appreciation for students who have disabilities," said Joe Dollins, certified adapted physical educator with SWCS. "But we also wanted to do it in a way that was fun and exciting, as well as educational."

When Dollins was a student at Wright State University, he coached their wheelchair basketball team.

"It was a lot of fun and I learned a lot about their capabilities on and off the basketball court," he said. "They are all remarkable individuals."

The event was inspired by a boy named Gage, who is a student at Finland Elementary and has cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy is a disorder caused by brain damage occurring at or before birth and marked by muscular impairment. It is often accompanied by poor coordination and it sometimes involves speech and learning disabilities.

Gage lives with his grandmother and she had trouble meeting the cost of a new wheelchair lift for their vehicle. The wheelchair lift can range from $400 to $3,000.

"Mr. Lucas, the physical education teacher at Jackson Middle School became aware of this situation from his wife who is a teacher at Finland Elementary," Dollins said. "He wanted to do a fund raiser for him that incorporated wheelchair sports and we collaborated with the school and came up with this."

Throughout the week, students contributed donations with specially marked days designated by the school’s student council, who also helped put on the event. For example, Thursday was "wear a hat to school" day.

"If the student wanted to wear a hat, they had to donate a dollar or more if they wanted," said Libby Watkins, principal of Jackson Middle School.

All in all, the students, staff and administrators raised $700 for Gage and his grandmother to buy a wheelchair lift to transfer him more efficiently when traveling.

"It was great to see students doing good things for other students," Dollins said. "That is what I think makes South-Western such a great district. They have involved parents, motivated teachers and caring students."

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