Students find hero playing wheelchair basketball

June 11, 1993|By Katherine D. Ramirez | Katherine D. Ramirez,Staff Writer

With baseball players brawling, the president's popularity nosediving and even Superman no longer around, there seems to be a shortage of heroes these days. The Colgate Elementary School in Baltimore County found one in Claude N. Hall.

Mr. Hall, a junior at the city's William S. Baer School for handicapped students, was born with one arm and other birth defects that have kept him in a wheelchair all his life. Last month, he was one of 10 students from Baer who took on a Colgate team in a game of wheelchair basketball.

The Colgate players, unaccustomed to using wheelchairs, got a taste of the physical challenges the disabled encounter every day. They also got trounced by the Baer team, 21 to 0.

When it came time for Colgate's Pupil Council, consisting of one representative from each grade, to select someone to honor at the annual end-of-school awards presentation, the students voted unanimously for Mr. Hall, the Baer captain.

"Some of the children just couldn't believe how well he handled himself," said Elaine Lantz, a Colgate guidance counselor.

In other years, the Colgate students have chosen Orioles players and television journalists as their hero of the year. Mr. Hall, who turned 18 last week, is the youngest person to receive the honor.

"Claude is much more meaningful for the kids," said Lynn Sperry, second-grade teacher at Colgate, in the Eastpoint area of the county. "He is someone closer to the students' age, and we are really excited for him."

At yesterday's ceremony in the Colgate cafeteria, Mr. Hall was given a book of photographs from the basketball game and a check for $100 -- a contribution from the school toward his trip to Scotland next week to participate in a competition for disabled athletes.

"I'd like to thank all of you for letting me be your hero for today," Mr. Hall modestly told the group. "I hope to come again. It was a pleasure."

Colgate officials said their school's relationship with Baer began when a Colgate fifth-grader who has a cousin at Baer told Ms. Lantz about a shortage of toys there.

"We set aside one day before Thanksgiving for a toy drive, and we accumulated 30 huge boxes of toys. Our school looked like Toys 'R' Us," Ms. Lantz said.

The event led to a pen pal program between students of the two schools and then to last month's wheelchair basketball game.

"This linkage that the two schools have formed is very important because our children really need to become sensitized," Ms. Lantz said. "They really need this kind of education."

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