Action County: Candido Estrada
Candido Estrada is getting the hang of playing hoops on wheels.Estrada, an 11-year-old Summit Middle School student who cruises through the halls in a wheelchair, hasn’t let Spina bifida – a neural tube defect that caused paralysis in his lower body – keep him away from the hardwood.”I got really into the sport because it looked really fun,” Estrada said. “When I was in like fifth grade, I saw some kids playing basketball, so I went to see if I could play with them.”Before long, Estrada was knocking down shots and wheeling his way up and down the court as fast as possible to keep up with able-bodied opponents and teammates.
When SMS’ boys intramural hoops season came around earlier this winter, Estrada decided to get involved.”Some teachers told me I should try it out,” the sixth-grader said. “I just did it.”Estrada, who was issued jersey No. 15 on the intramural green team, was embraced by his teammates.”My team was really nice,” he said. “They told me their names and stuff, it was a really fun thing.”As Estrada reflected on his first competitive basketball season during an interview in the SMS gymnasium on Thursday, his first bucket stood out as a highlight.”It was our second game,” Estrada said. “I thought I’d never do it in a game, I thought I’d just miss. … I just went and threw it in there.”
Estrada is a positive-natured youngster who may have yet to realize his ability to inspire.Regardless, it seems he’s already examined both the ups and the downs of his condition.”It’s kind of fun – most of the kids like to push me and stuff,” he responded when asked what it’s like to live with a wheelchair.”It’s hard,” Estrada added later on. “I see some kids doing stuff that I can’t do, like playing soccer.”A diligent league commissioner
Travis Avery is in his seventh year as athletic director at Summit Middle School. One of his many responsibilities is to run the intramural league that Estrada is a part of.”If kids want to play, we’re going go make sure they’re going to be able to play because that’s what it’s about,” said Avery, who, prior to Estrada, had never had a basketball player on wheels in his intramural program.”The rest of the kids are real supportive,” Avery said. “They seem to get it, and the coaches do a good job helping them with that.”Avery, who has accommodated for severe-needs students in SMS’ after-school league in the past, said Estrada brings a valuable presence to the court.”It makes the kids have the understanding that everyone enjoys the game,” he said. “You may have a disability or some challenge in life, but you like basketball just like your buddy might like basketball. It’s important that kids get the opportunity to play and I think it makes them a little more aware of it. It’s not just running up and down the court sometimes.”
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