Wheelchair Sports Federation | Adaptive Sports Organization
Tim Nugent - A Dedicated Life Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   

 

Timothy Nugent’s vision, dedication and hard work paved a path of accessibility in education and sports that has touched the lives of thousands of people with disabilities.

The accessible sports world lost a great leader late last year in the establishment of wheelchair basketball and education for people with disabilities.  Dubbed the “Father of Accessibility”, Timothy Nugent passed away November 11, 2015 in Illinois at age 92.  Throughout his life, Nugent was at the forefront of the fight to prove to universities, government and the general public that people with disabilities have the same aspirations, skills and talents as everyone else.  “We’ve come a long way since the apathy of the 1940’s and 1950’s,” Nugent said in a 2008 Sports ‘n Spokes article.

            Beginning in the late 1940’s, he founded the first comprehensive program of higher education for individuals with disabilities at the University of Illinois.  There, he served as professor of rehabilitation education and director of the Rehabilitation Education Center and Division of Rehabilitation Education Services until his retirement in 1985.

            In 1948, he organized the first National Wheelchair Basketball Tournament (NWBT) which led to the establishment of the National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA) a year later.  Nugent served as NWBA Commissioner for the first 25 years.  Not the least on his list of accomplishments, he laid the groundwork and advocated for architectural accessibility standards, accessible transportation and adaptive equipment and recreational activities.

            “His mantra was ‘the presence of a problem is the absence of an idea’, which led him to break down many of the barriers that people with impairments face in all spheres of life, from education right through to sport and making the built environment accessible for all,” says Sir Philip Craven, president of the International Paralympic Committee, in a press release.

Basic Training

            Born in 1923, Nugent witnessed firsthand the emotional and psychological effects visual impairments had on both his father and sister.  He served in the Army in World War II, where he met many of the veterans who would later inspire him to build the program at Illinois.  The GI Bill had opened the doors of education to many veterans, but for those with a disability there were “medical suppositions,” he said.  The medical professionals at the time didn’t know how to handle spinal cord injuries (SCI).

            Those veterans, including himself, who were hurt in the war found university administrators unwilling to accept them as students because of the extra cost and liability involved.  Nugent said in a 2013 interview in Illinois Pioneers.  After the war, the dean of the University of Illinois-Galesburg campus asked Nugent to head the university’s new rehabilitation program.  He boosted the program’s viability in the community, even after the governor announced the Galesburg campus would close in April 1949.

 

Bumps in the Road

Galesburg had been an Army Hospital before it was purchased by the University of Illinois-Galesburg.  This made it ideal for the birthplace of the Rehabilitation Education Center, now known as the Division of Disability Resources and Education Services (DRES).

            Nugent’s goal was to help the students, many of whom were attending a public institution for the first time, to develop the skills to live independently.  He faced the obstacle of trying to convince some parents to leave their children at the campus; others had to be convinced their children would benefit from obtaining a degree in the first place.

By fall 1948, 13 students with disabilities attended the school full-time.  When the governor announced the Illinois- Galesburg campus was closing, Nugent lead a contingent of 20 veterans and non-veterans to march the Capitol.  The demonstrations shed new light on Nugent’s program and garnered statewide attention.  The 13 students had been promised two years of college, so the university administration agreed it would accept them on the main campus at Urbana-Champaign.

As the program grew, so did the need to provide accessible buildings and transportation.  Nugent culled together funds from supporters to build ramps and install curb cuts.  He also established the rehabilitation service fraternity, Delta Sigma Omicron.  He obtained two busses and, with the help of a friend who fabricated bus parts, installed the first wheelchair lifts for buses on the university campus.

With these modifications, Nugent set a precedent for other universities around the country and began to level the educational playing field.

 

Lasting Legacy

The sport of wheelchair basketball would not exist as we know it without Nugent’s participation.  World War II veterans with disabilities invented the game and organized teams but he broadened the game’s scope beyond veterans and streamlined the rules.  He organized and coached the nation’s first collegiate wheelchair basketball team, the Gizz Kids, to give the students an outlet for their energy and to develop their feelings of self-worth and satisfaction.

In 1949, Nugent brought six teams together from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals for the first NWBT.  To create year-round structure for the game, he founded the NWBA.  New rules made the game more similar to able-bodied basketball, so it was easier for fans to follow.  Today NWBA consists of more than 175 teams from the US and Canada with men, women, collegiate and youth divisions.

            Nugent served as president of the National Paraplegia Foundation, now the National Spinal Cord Injury Association, for four terms.  He held degrees from Tarleton State University, the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and the University of Wisconsin.  He also has honorary degrees from Springfield College in MA and Mount Mary College in WI.

            In 2013, the US College of Applied Health Sciences, which includes DRES, established the Timothy J Nugent Professor in Rehabilitation Research.  He also was active in the American National Standards Institute, the Illinois State Legislative Commission on the Hospitalization of Spinal Cord Injured, the Committee on Technical Aids, Housing and Transportation of Rehabilitation International, and the Institute for the Advancement of Prosthetics.

            “Dr. Nugent dedicated his life to helping others and through his efforts he created many opportunities for individuals with disabilities,” says Sarah Castle, president of the NWBA, in a release.  “We are thankful for his vision that ultimately touched so many lives on and off the basketball courts.  His legacy with the National Wheelchair Basketball Association is remarkable.  He has touched so many great athletes, coaches, officials and leaders.  My life is richer for all of his contributions as are those of countless other athletes and we will cherish all you have done for those with disabilities.  You will always be fondly remembered in the wheelchair basketball community.”

 Brittany Martin - Sports’n Spokes January 2016

 

A final note from Wheelchair Sports Federation on the Legacy of Tim Nugent:

The WSF would not exist without Mr. Nugent, (with myself in 2008) and Al Youakim.  Both were pioneers in Adaptive Sports since World War II and selfless leaders.  It has been my distinct honor and privilege to know these great individuals, to learn from them and most importantly to be called their friend.  They provided thousands of individuals the opportunity to play sports and more importantly they taught hundreds of us how to keep providing those opportunities in the future through their tireless and extraordinary dedication.

 

The last time I saw Dr. Nugent was at the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield MA.when the NWBA moved their Hall of Fame to the museum for permanent display.  The NEPVA Celtics and NJ Nets Wheelchair Basketball Teams were proud to play an exhibition that weekend and even more so to do it front of the individuals who made Adaptive Sports possible in the United States.   We may never see the likes of Dr. Timothy Nugent again but his Legacy will last as long as there are Adaptive Sports.

  

Last Updated on Saturday, 05 March 2016 18:56
 
Goodbye to our Friend Re Marks Print E-mail
Written by John Hamre   

  

Ruth Eleanor "Re" Marks

Our friend and one of the Wheelchair Sports Federation's greatest volunteers passed away on February 14, 2016.  Re Marks of Springfield, NJ and Roscoe, NY passed away peacefully, surrounded by her loving family after complications from a heart condition. She was 68 years old. Re was born in Brooklyn, NY and moved to Roscoe with her family in 1949. In 1965, she graduated from Roscoe Central School. Re received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Physical Education from Pershing College in Beatrice, NE before obtaining her masters in Health Education from Ithaca College in Ithaca, NY. She began her career as a physical education teacher at Roscoe Central School in 1969. In 1974 she left teaching to take over her father's trucking company in New Jersey. She successfully owned and operated Marks Trucking Inc. until 1992, when she sold it to Pigtainer Inc. a sister trucking company. Pigtainer then hired Re as a dispatcher and office manager where she worked until her death. She was loved and respected by all who came in contact with her. In 1982 she gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. Jillian was born with Spina bifida and as a result became deaf and in a wheelchair for the remainder of her life. This unexpected challenge lead Re into a life of dedicated service to the New Jersey Wheelchair Sports League. She coached, officiated and ran several track, swimming and basketball teams for 18 years. When Jillian aged out of the program at 21, Re went on to coach a junior Nets co-ed Wheelchair Basketball team and then developed and coached an all girls Liberty Wheelchair Basketball team. After her retirement from coaching, she volunteered and officiated for the New Jersey Wheelchair Basketball League. Even though coaching and working with children was in her blood, her favorite pastime was spending time with her daughter, family and friends. She is survived by her daughter Jillian Eleanor Marks of Springfield, NJ and her partner Tina Squires; a nephew Michael Allen of Callicoon, NY, his wife Kori and their children Caden and Taylor; nieces Laurie Allen-Kuehn of Roscoe, her husband Perry and their daughter Elizabeth, Amy Marks of Wilmington, DE, Michelle Griffth of Cochranville, Pa, her husband John and their children Kira and JD; Merrily Lynch of Cochecton, NY her husband Phillip and their children Stephanie and Tommy; sister-in-law Sue Marks of Chester, PA, and Patty Hendrix of Virginia Beach, VA.. She was predeceased by her beloved sister Julie Allen; brother-in-law Don Allen; her brother Steve Marks; and her parents Marty and Eleanor Marks.  

As a lasting reminder of her love of Jillian and Wheelchair Basketball, a picture of them from a Liberty Wheelchair Basketball game is on her headstone.  She will be greatly missed! 

Last Updated on Saturday, 05 March 2016 07:11
 
21st Annual Al Youakim Wheelchair Basketball Tournament (NJ) Print E-mail
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The 21st Annual Al Youakim Wheelchair Basketball Tournament had 5 teams participating on Saturday October 31, 2015 and Sunday November 1, 2015 at the Hackensack (NJ) Middle School. They placed:

1st Place - Nassau Kings
2nd Place - Bulova Nets
3rd Place - New England Blazers
4th Place - Brooklyn Nets
5th Place - Jr Nets
Individual Awards went to the following:
 
Class I Al Youakim All-Star - Errol Samuels - Brooklyn Nets
Class I Al Youakim All-Star - Mark James - Bulova Nets
Class II Al Youakim All-Star - Steve Davis - New England Blazers
Class II Al Youakim All-Star - Kyle Jankowski - Jr Nets
Class III Al Youakim All-Star - Steven Yedlock - Bulova Nets
Class III Al Youakim All-Star - Edy Lopez

Mike Lione MVP Award - Christopher St. Remy - Nassau Kings

Freddy Jones Sportsmanship Award - Chad Sussman
Al Youakim Spirit Award - Sylvester "Frank" Simmons
Congratulations on another great Tournament and the Wheelchair Sports Federation would like to thank our wonderful volunteers, Re Marks, Dan Levine, Al Youakim and Chris Youakim.  We'll see you next November 2016 for the 22nd Annual.
 
 
15th Annual Jana Hunsaker Memorial Wheelchair Tennis Tournament (NY) Print E-mail
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Over 96 wheelchair tennis players participated in the 15th Annual Jana Hunsaker Memorial Wheelchair Tennis Tournament at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows Corona Park from Thursday June 4th to Sunday June 7th, 2015.  The big winner was Men's Open Singles Winner Yusuke Nishimura and Women's Open Winner Shelby Baron The list of all the winners is as follows:

 

Men's Open Winner: Yusuke Nishimura

Men's Open Finalist: Phillipe Bedard

Men's Open Second Draw Winner: Chris Herman

Men's Open Doubles Winners: Rafael Medieros/Carlos Santos

Men's Open Doubles Finalists: Joel Dembe/Phillipe Bedard

 

Men's A Winner: Jongchul Sah

Men's A Finalist: Patrick Donaghey

Men's A Doubles Winners: Patrick Donaghey/Cristobal Rivera

Men's A Doubles Finalists: Danny Heumann/David Mendoza

 

Men's B Winner: Owen Gill

Men's B Finalist: Ricardo Corral

Men's B Doubles Winners: Chris Lamps/Nathan Melnyk

Mens' B Doubles Finalists: Thomas Dodd/Owen Gill

 

Men's C Winner: Charles Smith

Men's C Finalist: Steven Riley

Men's C Doubles winners: Joe Mendez/Henry Hasson

Men's C Doubles finalists: Charles Smith/Steven Riley

 

Women's Open Winner: Shelby Baron

Women's Open Finalist: Yuka Chokyu

Women's Open Doubles Winners: Yuka Chokyu/Marianne Page

Women's Open Doubles Finalists: Rosalba Vasquez Ramos/Claudia Toboada

 

Quad Open Winner: Gary Luker

Quad Open Finalist: Julio Rueda

Quad Open Doubles Winners: Pablo Araya/Julio Rueda

Quad Open Doubles Finalists: Kevin Whalen/David Jordan

George McFadden Spirit Award - 

Al Youakim Sportsmanship Award - Kevin Whalen 

 

With over $12,000 in prize money awarded to the winners, all participants competed at the highest level and enjoyed playing at one of the best Tennis Facilities in the World.  For more information about Wheelchair Tennis, please visit -   http://www.usta.com/Play-Tennis/Wheelchair-Tennis/Wheelchair/?intloc=headernavsub

 

Last Updated on Saturday, 05 March 2016 05:47
 
New York Sled Rangers Skate at Madison Square Garden Print E-mail
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Members of the Wheelchair Sports Federation's New York Sled Rangers skated between periods at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, November 10, 2015, as the Blueshirts faced off against the Carolina Hurricanes. The Rangers honored the team's disabled veterans during this demonstration, in celebration of Veterans' Day. 

The team played a quick scrimmage, with half on the Rangers Blue team, and the other half on the Rangers Camo team. The two teams faced off with end-to-end action, with longtime teammate (and Paralympian) Tony Fitzgerald leading the charge. Bryan Genovese wowed the crowd, hitting the crossbar with his shot with a resounding 'ding', while thousands cheered. 

Also highlighted were the team's veterans. The New York Sled Rangers Hockey Team is proud to have military veterans play and compete on the team. The veterans competing in the night's game were: 
- Sgt. Bryan Dilberian, U.S. Army 10th Mountain Division. During his 4 years of service, he was wounded by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan. Before his honorable discharge, he was the first ever triple amputee to return to active military service. 

- Sgt. Christopher Bustamante, U.S. Army 2nd Calvary Regiment. During his 5 years of service, he was injured while deployed to Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. 

- Private First Class Len Lacina, U.S. Army M1 Armor Crewman. During his 2 years of service, he was partially paralyzed due to an averse reaction to medical treatment.
Want to find out more about the New York Sled Rangers Hockey Team, to donate, or try sled hockey for yourself? Call 631-485-SLED (7533) or email  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  for more information.
Check out and Like the team on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/NYRSledHockey 
Also check out the NY Rangers blog at http://rangers.nhl.com/club/blogpost.htm?id=42759 
Be sure to follow the team on Twitter:  https://twitter.com/NYRSledHockey
All photos courtesy of MSG Photo Services 
Last Updated on Friday, 13 November 2015 23:06
 
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