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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Collegiate student founds group to promote adapted sports

By Deb Gruver
The Wichita Eagle

The greeting on Rob Egan’s cellphone goes something like this:

“Hello. You’ve reached Rob with American Collegiate Society for Adapted Athletics. I’m unavailable at the present time.”

Leave your name and number, and he’ll be happy to call you back.

“Thank you very much and have an excellent day,” Rob tells you at the end.

Rob is 16.

The junior at Wichita Collegiate School is founder of the aforementioned group – “aforementioned” is a word Rob probably would use. It is a nonprofit with 501(c)(3) status and a 13-member board of directors.

The society aims to be a clearinghouse for adapted sports at the college level, and this weekend, people can support it at the third annual Wheelchair Basketball Bash.

Rob has spastic diplegia, a form of cerebral palsy. His brain doesn’t tell his legs when to move.

He walks with a cane.

When he was 14, he came up with the idea for the society and wrote about it for a contest about how he could change the world.

“I didn’t win the contest, and I didn’t like that I didn’t win the contest,” Rob said. “So I decided to prove to the judges that I could do it anyway.”

Rob met with trademark lawyers. He put together a board of directors. He interviewed website designers.

He’s building a database of clubs and intramural sports groups that give people with disabilities a chance to compete athletically.

Soccer, baseball, rugby, basketball, tennis, sled hockey.

So far, Rob said, Ball State University has signed up to help get other universities to participate.

The database, he said, will “give us the ability to sort by sport and region and organize them into tournaments.”

The tournament this weekend was created so “high school students, just regular high school students you see in the halls of my high school, could come in and get in a sport wheelchair and play basketball and see what they would feel like.”

Competing in a wheelchair is difficult, Rob said.

The tournament this weekend allows teams of five or six players.

“I always tell them, ‘You want six. You’ll want the sub. You’ll get tired.’ ”

On Saturday, two wheelchair teams will compete against five teams of high school students and one team of teachers.

Wheelchair Sports Incorporated will provide 10 wheelchairs, which will allow one game at a time.

The tournament starts at 10 a.m. and lasts until 5:30 p.m. in the Upper School gym at Collegiate. Tickets are $3.

Rob’s mother, Cindy Egan, said she is incredibly proud of her son.

“What we really thought was a cute idea could become his life’s calling,” she said.

Rob will present his idea this summer at an adapted sports conference in New Orleans.

Cindy Egan said her son has a positive attitude about his cerebral palsy most of the time. He has four younger brothers “who are all pretty active athletically. It does get hard sometimes when he wishes he could be out there.”

Chris Ashbrook, head of the Upper School at Collegiate, serves as the president of the group’s board.

When Rob asked Ashbrook to be president, Ashbrook said he thought “ ‘Sure, I’ll try to help,’ never believing that three years later, Rob would be speaking to a national conference. It’s great that the potential has started to become realized. I’m glad I did say yes to Rob.”

Reach Deb Gruver at 316-268-6400 or dgruver@wichitaeagle.com.

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