Jim Bates, president of the Roosevelt Island Disabled Association, is stretching the shoe-string budget of his small, nonprofit organization to create a wheelchair basketball team on Roosevelt Island, where several hundred disabled people live.
"These guys deserve to show their skills, and they need competition to get better," said Bates, a determined and proactive 67-year-old Vietnam era veteran, who goes by the nickname of Uncle Jim. "Am I going to be the coach? Well, why not?"
Since last October, every Saturday morning from 10am to 1pm, Luis Delmao, Marco Cherrez, Mario Reyes, Steve Santiago, and a dozen other friends have been practicing wheelchair basketball at the Sportspark, a red-brick gym on Roosevelt Island. Watch the video below to see a recent training session of Uncle Jim's kids:
"It's a great work-out, and we goof around a lot. Most of us rarely go out, and this is our only means of exercise," said Santiago with a big smile. A former center for the New Jersey Nets' wheelchair basketball team, he has been helping Bates put the squad together.
Besides the wheelchair basketball program, which welcomes both men and women, the Roosevelt Island Disabled Association provides administrative and communications services, and specialized counseling and assistance for its 75 members and any other disabled person.
If you are interested in supporting Uncle Jim's team and the other Roosevelt Island Disabled Association programs, contact the organization at 212-731-2547 or 546 Main Street, 3rd Floor, New York, NY 10044.