Suh, OU host tenth annual wheelchair game

As soon as his name was announced, the crowd began the famous, ‘Suuuuuh’ chant everyone hears at Ford Field on Sundays.

But for Detroit Lion Ndamukong Suh, the night was not about him; it was about the athletes in wheelchairs.

“They are great examples of, as well as us as athletes are, of going through their trials and tribulations,” the 2010 Defensive Rookie of the Year said. “I’ve gone through heartaches and different things and they’ve gone through heartaches and things of their own and they’ve made their way back to where they can take care of themselves and really just be another person in the community, although they have some things to deal with personally.”

With the help of Suh, Oakland University hosted the tenth annual DMC Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan’s Celebrity Wheelchair basketball game last night at the O’Rena.

“For me it’s an opportunity to be a part of something that’s great,” Suh said. “I didn’t just want to be put my name on it and try to be apart of it that way, I wanted to actually be here taking part in the festivities and helping a great cause and helping people with illnesses and disability situations.”

The night kicked off at 6 p.m. with pre-game festivities as celebrities began to arrive.

Karen Newman, Detroit Red Wings National Anthem singer, who participated in the event last year, was one of the first to enter the VIP lounge.

“I am thrilled, I was a part of this event last year and it’s pretty special,” she said. “It’s great to see the celebrities show up to and support this, but it’s more special, of course, to meet the people who are wheel chair bound who are benefiting from the event, it’s really great. I do a lot of charity events, but it’s one of my favorites.”

Before the celebrity wheelchair game, the doctors, nurses and therapists of the Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan played the Oakland University Athletics Department to a wheelchair game of their own.

At about 7 p.m., the crowd of about 1,500 settled in to the O’Rena for the announcements of each team, the Motor City Rollers, coached by former Detroit Piston John Long, and Suh’s team, the Detroit Jam.

Radio personalities, news anchors and athletes, including 97.1 The Ticket’s Terry Foster, WXYZ’s Erin Nicole and Michigan’s ‘Fab Five’ member Jimmy King, intermixed with wheelchair basketball players, formed the two teams.

“It’s great to see all the support from all the celebrities,” Sharina Jones, Miss Wheelchair Michigan said. “I think some people only think when you make it big you never come back and see the little people, so it’s great to see everybody here and supporting us and believing in the same cause for us.”

Suh’s team got off to a quick start with the help of his direction from the sidelines. After a steal, Suh called “to throw it deep” to a Detroit Jam player who was waiting near the basket for an easy lay-up.

As the half went on, the teams went back and forth, with Suh’s Detroit Jam battling to a 16-15 lead going into the third quarter.

The Motor City Rollers, though, came out hot regaining the lead and eventually went on to win the game 36-34, after a late shot by a Detroit Jam player hit the rim and bounced out with eight seconds left in the game.

Foster, who played for the winning Motor City Rollers, struggled early in the game, but got the hang of it after a few adjustments.

“First I had a slow chair, it was the chair,” he said. “Once you got going it was a lot of fun. They’re real good; these are like nationally ranked players. I was amazed by the speed and the way they were able to go behind their back and crossovers and all that kind of stuff.”

The Oakland University men and women’s swim and dive team ran the event and Associate Coach Shawn Kornoelje, who helped bring the game to Oakland, thought it was beneficial for his players to see the disabled athletes.

“I think it’s good for the kids on our team and in the athletic department get exposed to the what he athletes in wheelchairs can do and bring awareness to,” he said. “You don’t have to be an able-bodied athlete to be an athlete.

Through concessions, 50-50 raffles and tickets, Dr. Bill Restum, President of the Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan estimates the wheelchair game, on a good night, could bring in $30,000 to $40,000 and is the primary fundraiser for Sports Ability, a group designed for disabled people to partake in sports.


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