A special demonstration event for wheelchair rugby was held at the base gym at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., Oct. 24, 2019, to celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month.
Wheelchair rugby, also known as murderball, is a team event closely resembling rugby, however it is played entirely in modified wheelchairs. The demonstration was spearheaded by Andrew Skinner, the founder of the Triumph Foundation.
“Our goal is to just raise awareness for people with disabilities, there’s a lot of people that work on base that have a disability or have loved ones that have disabilities,” Skinner said. “We just want to shine a light on people’s capabilities; a lot of times folks see what others can’t do and don’t realize the potential that they have.”
Skinner started the Triumph Foundation, a non-profit organization, in 2008 after suffering a catastrophic spinal injury in 2004. After years of physical therapy and rehabilitation, Skinner is now able to go around and talk about his experience and help out other people with disabilities through the foundation.
The wheelchair rugby demo is a part of the outreach that the foundation showcases to educate both disabled and able-bodied people about the possibilities and challenges that those with disabilities face.
“This is an awesome activity because it gives a chance for everybody to play an all-inclusive game; get to know one another and just highlight people’s abilities,” he said.
Skinner said the demonstration highlighted the people’s abilities, not their disabilities.
“We let the able-bodies play and they come out feeling like the real challenged athletes because they’re the ones whose arms are ready to fall off; they’re getting schooled on the court on the game,” Skinner said. “It’s really fun for the folks who have disabilities to be the leaders of the pack and it’s a really neat experience to see people coming away with huge smiles on their faces.”
One of those able-bodied participants, Staff Sgt. Rosalva Brisbane, 412th Medical Group, shared those same sentiments.
“Definitely today has proven to me how difficult it can be, but at the same time that nothing is impossible,” said Rosalva, who helped Triumph arrange the event. “Simple things that we might take for granted; like playing basketball or running around, these guys, their character is just outstanding.”
The murderball demo allowed able-bodied individuals a small glimpse into a disabled person’s experiences and learn more about their challenges, while also learning about how physically exhausting wheelchair rugby can be.
“It’s very tiring, I don’t think I’ve ever felt this tired in a long time,” Brisbane said. “Definitely a lot of good upper-body work.”