North High School hosts The Ability Center

Published: May. 5, 2022 at 6:51 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Damian Buchman doesn’t let the word “disability” define anything.

Along with being an adaptive athlete for the Wisconsin Thunder wheelchair basketball team, Buchman is also a father of three adopted boys. He’s using his life experiences to inspire others.

Afflicted by osteosarcoma, or bone cancer, in his knees since adolescence, Damien Buchman has founded organizations such as The Ability Center to promote opportunities for disadvantaged people to enjoy competitive activities.

“I actually started this as a childhood cancer survivor, having metal knees, for my other peers who became amputees from cancer,” he said. “I wanted to give them an opportunity, and then I realized I really loved adaptive sports, too.”

Thursday, Buchman and his associates spoke to students at North High School about their mission, and had the students participate in wheelchair basketball and goalball. Goalball is a game for the visually impaired involving a noisemaking rolling ball, two goals and no ability to see. North High student Jayda Nesvacil says she loved experiencing both sports.

“I had so much fun,” she said. “I’m a basketball advocate just in general. I love basketball, so it’s really fun to be able to do that. I’m a fast runner, so it’s different like I can’t go as fast as I want to in the wheelchair and like seeing how fast the guy that like is here doing it, he can move so fast and it’s just awesome to see how everybody has their different strengths.”

The Ability Center group is also attending a “playground night” event hosted by Northwoods Elementary School. With a mission of getting as much of the local community together for fun and games, able bodied or not, the event is right up Buchman’s alley. He echoed the sentiment in the ability center’s goal.

“Our ultimate goal is that we’re going to give people this experience of playing what we say is a different pair of shoes, and so they’re literally just putting on like football cleats,” he said. “Instead, they’re putting on a wheelchair, and I think our most favorite part about it is that it levels the playing field for everybody.”

Friday, Buchman will speak to a rehabilitation science class at the McPhee building at UW- Eau Claire, and also at the Northwoods Elementary all-school assembly.

Buchman’s visits were possible thanks to a grant from the Eau Claire public schools foundation.

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