Roll With It provides sports options, fun for competitors of all age

Lily Schreifels uses her crutches to walk because she has cerebral palsy. In her wheelchair on the basketball court, she plays her heart out and nothing can stop her.

“Wheelchair basketball is my favorite sport. I hate doing killers (conditioning drills). Shooting is my favorite thing to do during practice,” Schreifels said, a participant in Roll With It.

Roll With It is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to providing sports training, competition, and recreation with a variety of wheelchair and adapted sports activities for children and adults with physical disabilities. Roll With It (RWI) promotes disability awareness and assists wheelchair/adaptive sports teams and activity participants. The assistance is in the form of collecting donated items and raising money for sport wheelchairs, uniforms, equipment, officials and travel expenses.

Schreifels is a sixth grader at Monticello Middle School. She also plays power soccer. Without Roll With It, she wouldn’t be able to enjoy sports. She is from Becker.

“One of the great things about Roll With It is that it is open to all ages and anyone can be involved or volunteer, said RWI Executive Director Jan Larson. “Although we would like to see RWI expand to other areas of the state, our main focus is around the St. Cloud area.” The program would like to expand in the future. As it is, RWI provides much-needed activities for athletes who would otherwise have to travel long distances to enjoy sports participation.

“Through this program individuals gain courage and strength along with team leadership skills,” Larson said. Athletes can become part of a team, learn cooperative skills and enjoy the character-building experiences that team membership and sports participation can bring. The sports offered by RWI are sports that can be enjoyed for years to come, promoting healthy lifestyles and self-sufficiency. Another benefit of RWI is the community awareness it develops, educating the general public about people with disabilities and the need to provide sports and recreation opportunities for all.

RWI offers archery, alpine skiing, bowling, gun training and certification, hunting, power soccer and wheelchair basketball.

The activities are not only fun for participants, also the volunteers and coaches find RWI to be a rewarding experience. “My favorite part about being one of the basketball coaches is getting to see the improvement that the players make. It is always a terrific feeling seeing how much fun they’re having,” said Even Schlosser, wheelchair basketball coach. Schlosser uses a wheelchair.

“I chose to become one of the basketball coaches because it is great meeting new people that are going through the same struggles that I am,” Schlosser said.

Wheelchair basketball is not the only fast-paced team sport offered by Roll With It, Power soccer is another. While zipping up and down the court, participants are able to hit the soccer ball around with the bumpers at the front of their power chairs. Although power soccer participation is decreasing, those who do try the sport enjoy racing around in their specially equipped wheelchairs. Some individuals have to turn down their chair speeds because they get so into the game and they end up going too fast.

RWI was started in 2003 by a student from the College of St. Benedict, Heidi Schwichtenberg. Schwichtenberg did an internship at the Courage Center in the Twin Cities and saw how many sports programs Courage Center offers. Schwichtenberg wanted to bring the same satisfaction for individuals with disabilities to the St. Cloud area, and Roll With It was started.

RWI has many volunteer opportunities for college students and other interested in helping sports participants have fun. Anyone who wishes to volunteer for Roll With It or get more information can contact Jan Larson at jan@rollwithitmn.org or check the Roll With It website at www.rollwithitmn.org to find out more information. Whether you would be interested in coaching or just volunteering with the different activities, Roll With It provides a chance for volunteers to make a difference in somebody’s life.

“We are always in need of more volunteers and there are great ways to get involved,” said Larson. “One way is through on-campus fundraisers.” Anyone wanting to help the organization may also make financial or equipment donations. Used wheelchairs and adaptive sports equipment are always welcomed, as are uniforms, facility time, advertising and donations that help defray travel costs.

“The main goal,” Larson said, “is to get individuals with enjoyable active and encourage them to meet other individuals who have similar interests, and RWI does just that. It provides a great opportunity for participants to play and work with a team.”

Shannon Koestler is a St. Could State University student and works part-time as Lily Schreifels’ personal care attendant.