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NIH Record

Spirited Play Highlights Disability Awareness Program

By Rich McManus

Photos: Ernie Branson

It's been a long time -- if ever -- since the parking lot in front of Bldg. 1 was cleared to make way for street ball. But it happened Oct. 1 when a team of wheelchair-using athletes from the Maryland Ravens basketball team took on a team of NIH'ers in a full-court game marking NIH's 15th annual Disability Employment Awareness Program, titled "Opening Doors to Disability."

Granted, the NIH squad wasn't used to sitting in wheelchairs, let alone running and dribbling a ball in them, but the Ravens did more than open doors. They opened minds as well by whupping the NIH team with such Úlan and ease that it seemed unfair to label any Raven "disabled." Time and again, Ravens players stripped hapless NIH'ers of the ball and raced downcourt for uncontested lay-ins. As a small crowd cheered from the sidelines, Ravens executed no-look passes, behind-the-back dribbles, and exhibited a reckless, careening, athletic joy that proved infectious. Though it might have been the smallest crowd ever to attend the disability program, it was easily the most spirited as NIH'ers both marveled at the skill of the Ravens and mocked the ineptitude of their coworkers.

NICHD's Dr. Louis Quatrano conducts the game's tip-off.

NIH deputy director Dr. Ruth Kirschstein opened the exhibition, calling the annual observance "extraordinarily valuable in increasing awareness" of employees with disabilities. She noted that NIH last year won an Employer of the Year Award for hiring and training workers with disabilities, but conceded "you know and I know there is much more that could be done."

Also offering brief remarks was Francine Little, director, Office of Financial Management, who was credited with finding last-minute funds to hold the program, which was sponsored by eight IC's, as well as OFM. Both she and Kirschstein wished that more NIH'ers had shown up to mark the day. A second game pitting the Ravens against another squad of NIH'ers was held Oct. 7 in the 14th floor gym of the Clinical Center; this event exposed more employees to the talents of athletes with disabilities.

A cadre of NIGMS employees including (from l) Dr. Jim Deatherage, George Gardner, Dr. Jean Chin and Dr. Anthony Rene cheers on participants in the hoop contest. Players hailed chiefly from NIGMS, NCRR and OFM/OD.
The Ravens have been promoting handicap awareness in the metropolitan area for more than 25 years, Kirschstein said, "thereby educating us all to the abilities and capabilities of people with disabilities." They play ball, give lectures, visit schools and do other sorts of community service.

The occasional crack-ups produced no animosity, only more opportunity for good sportsmanship.

There was no bitterness or vengefulness in their play, either. They laughed, hustled, showboated and had as much fun as any group of hoops lovers in town -- only they were rolling instead of running. On several occasions, it was fortunate that some of the players wore seat belts -- some headlong rushes to the basket resulted in crashes that ejected chair occupants. Despite the odd collision or spill, the Ravens demonstrated -- more than the ability to play ball -- a talent for having fun. Not even the undisabled are so good at that sometimes.

OFM'ers Mary Crilley (l) and Donna Adderly react to spirited play.

OEO's Carlton Coleman wheels and deals with the ball on a fast-break to the basket; there were too many to count in the lopsided contest.

Sue Thompson of NIGMS lofts ball toward goal.

The Raven's No. 21 gets a shot off despite the close defense of NCRR's Sean Stroud.

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