Disabled Children Shine As Athletes Carroll County

April 16, 1993|By Katherine Richards | Katherine Richards,Staff Writer

Christopher Hutchison, 11, of Westminster, sped to his mother at the side of the gym yesterday and said, "Mom, did you see over there with the basketball? I made five hoops, all in a row!"

He had reason to be proud.

Christopher has spina bifida. He can walk, with difficulty, using crutches. But put him in a "whiz wheel," a small wheelchair built low to the ground, and he's a round ball demon who can spin on a dime.

He proved it yesterday, at the sixth annual Tournament of Champions, an athletic event designed for children with physical disabilities.

The tournament resembles Special Olympics. About 75 children came to the Gill Gymnasium at Western Maryland College yesterday from the city of Baltimore and from Carroll, Baltimore and Frederick counties, to spend a morning running races, shooting hoops, throwing footballs and generally blowing off steam.

Western Maryland College and the Carroll County Therapeutic Recreation Council co-sponsored the tournament.

The tournament was a competition, but the athletes competed only against themselves. They were allowed to go back to each activity station as many times as they wished, to try to better their last score.

Events were modified to meet participants' needs. Some kids ran the 50-yard--- in electric wheelchairs. Blind children, as they ran, kept one hand on a tube that slid along a string held by two volunteers.

Some kids shot baskets into a large, low net. Others, like Christopher, used the regular baskets.

After the tournament, every athlete received a medal and a certificate with his or her best scores.

Each athlete had a buddy to help out as needed. The buddies were friends from school, or students from the college or Francis Scott Key High School.

Six-year-old Calvin Gholston, of Catonsville, practiced the 50-yard -- in a whiz wheel. He was born without part of a leg bone and with an underdeveloped knee joint, and is undergoing extensive treatment to lengthen his leg. His buddy was his 5-year-old brother, Al, who also had a whiz wheel.

"One more try," Calvin said. "I'm going to go real fast!"

Chris Hutchison also ran the 50-yard -- in a whiz wheel in 12 seconds, well under par. He amazed his buddy, Matt Bayley, a senior at Western Maryland College.

"He's got 12!" Mr. Bayley yelled to another buddy. "He, like, shattered it! Unbelievable!"

Chris also did well hitting the Wiffle ball. "He hit it 38 feet off the tee," Mr. Bayley said. "I can't hit it 38 feet."

Chris' mother, Alice Hutchison, said the tournament is important because it gives kids with physical disabilities a chance to be a part of something. Often, she said, they are excluded from regular children's activities, which tend to revolve around sports.

The Tournament of Champions is the brainchild of Jim Bullock, motor development coordinator for the Carroll County schools. He is helped by Co-Director Tracey Snyder, a motor development specialist with the school district.

Mr. Bullock started the program in 1988, with 17 athletes. Next year, he said, he will have to limit the number of participants or fit more stations into the Gill Gym.

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