US teen secures varsity spot in wheelchair basketball team despite spina bifida


Individuals with spina bifida can improve their lives and boost confidence through various means, including adaptive sports and physical activity. Photos: 123rf.com

One student from Bishop LeBlond High School in St Joseph, Missouri in the United States has never let his disability stop him from pursuing his passions. Thanks to his perseverance, he’ll be heading to the University of Arizona in Tuscon, Arizona to play wheelchair basketball.

Adversity comes in many different forms and at many different points in life. For Elliott Murphy, adversity started at birth.

The high school senior was born with spina bifida, which left him paralysed.

This never stopped Murphy, who grew obsessed with all things sports from an early age. Early on, his passion was in adaptive skiing.

When a back surgery ended his season in seventh grade, a friend’s invite sent him in another direction.

Murphy (centre) signs his letter of intent to continue playing wheelchair basketball in college. Photo: Instagram/chrisroush30Murphy (centre) signs his letter of intent to continue playing wheelchair basketball in college. Photo: Instagram/chrisroush30

“One of my friends in St Joseph actually played for a team in Omaha, Nebraska, and he said: ‘You should come out and try to play wheelchair basketball’,” Murphy said.

“I started in the end of my sixth grade year. My first full season was my seventh grade year.”

The only problem was that there were no wheelchair basketball teams in St Joseph, meaning the Murphy family would have to head south to Kansas City, Missouri in order to play.

“There’s just not, there’s not many adaptive disabled people, disabled kids in the St Joseph area,” Murphy said.

“It’s really let me meet a lot of people through the sport.”

Taking an active role in advocating for oneself and others with similar conditions can empower individuals with physical disabilities. Taking an active role in advocating for oneself and others with similar conditions can empower individuals with physical disabilities.

Being able to surround himself with kids in similar situations was beneficial to Murphy, who has always been the only one in a wheelchair at school.

Despite this difference, he has always been welcomed and accepted by his peers.

This has led to Murphy breaking out of his shell and joining many different groups at school, including the academic team and managing the basketball team.

Elliott’s mom, Caroline Clark-Murphy said: “I just always told him that people are watching you because you are the only person you know in a wheelchair in a lot of your settings. And you have the power to be an ombudsman for the disabled population.”

“Where it brings us a lot of joy is that he is where he is and we’re very grateful for the support that he’s had.”

As Murphy heads to the University of Arizona in August to play wheelchair basketball, he will continue to help people with disabilities around the world.

Murphy has started Wheels To Wheels, a non-profit organisation partnered with Hope Haven. The organisation provides wheelchairs, walkers, canes and crutches to those with disabilities.“According to the US National Institute for Health, there are over 20 million people around the world that are either... that need chairs and have no access to them or have access to really inadequate equipment,” said Clark-Murphy.

“At our home tournaments, we have the teams from across the country bring chairs, and then there’s a driver that drives it to South Dakota, where Hope Haven is. We were able to raise over US$30,000 (RM140,489) to send a crate of chairs to Costa Rica.” – St Joseph News-Press/Tribune News Service

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