Wheelchair basketball group’s fears of closure

Wheelerz basketball team
Wheelerz basketball team

A WHEELCHAIR basketball team could be forced to disband if it is unable to find sponsors within weeks.

John Smart, chairman of the Wheelerz, fears his group, which was set up by him eight years ago, may fold unless generous firms or individuals can help stump up the club’s annual running costs, which currently stand at £5,500.

He said: “We have written to lots of companies but you don’t get an answer from anyone. General Dynamics did help us out for a couple of years.

“We have distributed a lot of leaflets about the Wheelerz all over the place and hold fundraising events. We have had to do this, otherwise we would not be here now.”

Six years ago the Wheelerz applied for a Lottery grant and after four years without success managed to get £4,500, which ran out very quickly.

The group has had to buy new wheelchairs and special indoor basketballs, which each cost £45. It practices every Friday at Hillcrest Sports Centre in Rye Road from 6pm to 8pm but Mr Smart said this sets the club back by £36.

The Wheelerz currently has around a dozen members but it can vary. It is mainly made up of teenagers but the oldest player has been 45.

Mr Smart said: “We have lost a few players and we keep doing everything possible to get people to come and join in. We need at least 10 more players.

“It’s all to help disabled people’s fitness. The Wheelerz is also open to able-bodied people as well so they become more aware of how difficult it can be for wheelchair users. People have been brilliant donating equipment.”

The Wheelerz have been doing a lot of demonstrations of wheelchair basketball in schools across 1066 Country. Mr Smart hopes to visit schools and set up a wheelchair basketball tournament but his plans could be scuppered if his group folds.

He said: “I am now in debt because it’s been necessary for me to put money into the Wheelerz. It’s such a worthwhile cause as the children who come along on the Fridays really enjoy it and want to join in. If we get a sponsor we can advertise them on our minibus.” If anyone can help they can contact Mr Smart on 07716 772714.