Wheelchair Athletes Compete at CSUN Camp

It's summer sports camp season, and kids everywhere are at weeklong sessions tuning up their skills at everything from baseball to swimming to soccer.

At Cal State Northridge, young wheelchair athletes attended a camp this week where they participated in archery, hockey, basketball and other sports. Friday was family day, and the athletes on wheels, ages 7 through 21, rolled in ready to show their stuff.

Gatorade on ice? Check.

Name tags in place? Check.

The air was rich with enthusiasm as the 25 participants rallied to their teams, shouting battle cries like "Team two, team two, we're cool! We rule!" and scattering to take up a sport.

"I love this camp," North Hills resident Syed Azziz Hussaini said, revving his electric wheelchair toward the basketball court to join his fellow Team One members. "I learn tricks for playing sports that I can't learn at home because there are other people in wheelchairs here."

His parents, Zurhra and Syed Sr., and his brothers Quader, 2, and Mubdi, 8, set up a rooting section on the sidelines.

"Last year, he was chosen one of the best in camp," his father said proudly. "He received the Sport Wheelchair Award."

The elder Syed Hussaini praised the opportunities the camp presents for his son, who is challenged by a children's disease that causes fragile bones.

"With other kids, he has a lot of restrictions, but here he can relate," Hussaini said. "He's physically challenged, but he's not handicapped. Learning about the achievements of others gives him encouragement."

Warm-up drills were conducted on the court by staff coach Greg "Boo Daddy" Ghandi, himself a wheelchair athlete and referee.

At the whistle, 11-year-old Syed stood up and braced himself in the corner of his chair, got the hoop in his sights and fired off the ball. A miss, then a hit, to his family's delight.

The 14th annual CSUN camp offered a week of activities for young people with physical disabilities, under the guidance of physically challenged staff and volunteers. The camp is considered the only one of its kind in Los Angeles.

The day's activities were divided into four sessions, during which teams could choose to demonstrate their skills in one of five sports, including badminton, tennis, swimming and track and field events.

Wheelchair fencer Bill Murphree of Panorama City was on hand in full regalia with a variety of epees, or swords, to recruit others to the sport.

Charles Whitehead displayed designer spokes guards and talked to participants about customizing their wheelchairs to suit their individual styles.

Dinner was on the Northridge Kiwanis Club, whose members stoked up the barbecue for the occasion.

CSUN co-sponsored the weeklong camp with Adaptive Sports and Recreation, a private nonprofit Simi Valley-based therapeutic recreation program.

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