Trading rubber soles for rubber wheels to gain new perspectives

March 03, 2023
The U.S. Bank team included, from left, Mike Dahm, Steph Parise, Dana Armour and Josue Rodriguez.

A team of U.S. Bank colleagues participated in the inaugural Play for Inclusion 3v3 Wheelchair Basketball Charitable Tournament in Milwaukee

For someone without a disability, it could be challenging to use a wheelchair just to get around, let alone using one to play basketball. That’s what a team of U.S. Bank employees did recently in order to gain new perspectives about people with disabilities and enjoy healthy competition.

The four employees competed in the inaugural Play for Inclusion 3v3 Wheelchair Basketball Charitable Tournament. Sponsored by The Ability Center, the event brought together teams from across the Greater Milwaukee area for accessibility-inclusive play to benefit the center’s programs.

The team was sponsored by the U.S. Bank Global Disability business resource group, and members were recruited by Global Disability board chair Kelly Risser. The team included Wealth Management and Investment Services employees Mike Dahm, Steph Parise, Dana Armour and Josue Rodriguez, who worked to quickly adapt their skills and compete. 

To level the tournament playing field, all participating teams were made up of players who The Ability Center founder Damian Buchman refers to as temporarily able-bodied (TAB) individuals. Buchman has said he learned at a young age that we all are borrowing a body today that will not work the same tomorrow, and he believes TABs are the one demographic we all belong to.

Through the tournament, TAB players were able to experience the game of basketball from the perspective of athletes with physical disabilities.

“During the opening ceremony, Damian described the wheelchair as our pair of shoes for the day. It was humbling to be in someone else’s shoes and get out of our comfort zone,” Parise said.

“We were timid to start as we were challenged with figuring out how to dribble, navigate the others around us and find the best way to get in shooting range,” she said. “But by the end, we were aggressive and strategically navigating the floor.” 

The Milwaukee-based Ability Center aims to provide everyone with a daily opportunity to be fit, active and healthy, and play together. It also envisions building communities where all abilities are provided a universal opportunity for health, wellness and recreation. 

U.S. Bank supports The Ability Center on its goal of transforming the Milwaukee area into one of the most accessible and inclusive recreation locations in the world. 

The team learned that the wheelchairs created an environment of equivalence, where height and age didn’t matter. And with a record of two games won and two games lost, the team members were proud competitors.

Though the team didn’t bring the championship trophy back to U.S. Bank, everyone enjoyed the experience and developed some new skills along the way.

“The biggest takeaway for the day wasn’t in the score; it was in the experience,” Parise said. “We all enjoyed the day and agreed it was even more fun than expected. We each have so much more respect for athletes with disabilities. We can’t wait to play again!”

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