Big Wheels Wheelchair Basketball Tournament on April 21

By Beacon Staff

Last year, a team from Kalispell Regional Medical Center won the 25th annual Big Wheels Wheelchair Basketball Tournament, a major fundraiser for Special Friends Advocacy Program.

But winning wasn’t easy. In fact, David Sturzen, a KRMC team member, is quick to point out that nothing about wheelchair basketball is easy.

“It’s really a challenge,” Sturzen said. “You’re lower to the ground, you’re usually still moving when you shoot – it’s just challenging.”

“And the next day,” he added, “almost every muscle in your upper body is sore.”

However, like every other participant in the tournament, Sturzen is also quick to point out that the experience is rewarding. It’s why he and many others keep coming back every year: to support a good cause and take part in a fun community event.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Sturzen said. “You make friends along the way and you develop long-lasting friendships.”

The 26th annual Big Wheels Basketball Tournament will be held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on April 21 at Kalispell’s Edgerton Elementary School gymnasium, preceded by a fundraising event on the evening of April 20 at the Elks Lodge.

The Friday night fundraiser, which starts at 8 p.m., features a silent auction with gift baskets, gift certificates, services and merchandise. Raffle sales will be offered to win a fully catered dinner for eight, with tickets available by calling 756-5488. There will be food, beverages and live music by the Kenny James Miller Band.

The wheelchair basketball tournament features about 12 teams from Kalispell and other cities, including Billings, Great Falls and Cascade. Teams are composed of players with disabilities who use wheelchairs in their daily lives and players who don’t, like the X-ray technicians from last year’s winning KRMC squad.

Among the organizations that have fielded teams this year are the Kalispell Police Department, Flathead County Sheriff’s Office, Eagle Transit, Sykes and Fun Beverage.

The tournament and the Elks Lodge event raise funds for Kalispell-based Special Friends Advocacy Program, which provides services for adults with developmental disabilities throughout the Flathead. Teams pay entry fees to participate in the tournament.

Special Friends Advocacy Program receives no state or federal funding, making these fundraisers highly important, according to Rebecca Groose-Jones, awareness director for the organization. Groose-Jones said the tournament is a good way to connect different groups from around the community.

“You see that it’s a real diverse community when we all get together,” Groose-Jones said. “That’s what’s so neat about it. It’s really a community-building event.”

For more information, call Special Friends Advocacy Program at (406) 756-5488.

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