Hoops with the Finest: Bronx cops host wheelchair basketball tournament

Photo by Amanda Moses

It’s time for some basketball with the Blue!

The NYPD’s Community Affairs Bureau joined forces with the Patrol Services Bureau for a fun-filled basketball event in honor of Disability Pride Month on July 30 in the Bronx. 

A half a dozen wheelchairs lined the walls of the Woodstock/South Bronx PAL Center’s gymnasium located at 991 Longwood Ave. in preparation for two basketball games, one where officers faced-off against the NYC Rolling Fury — a wheelchair basketball team — and the other a played-off against members of the Lexington School for the Deaf.  

This summer, the NYPD has taken their role in creating an inclusive environment even further with their Summer Youth Employment program, enlisting 20 fully deaf and 10 hard of hearing teens, as well as 11 others with autism and learning disabilities. 

“We want to do something good for Disability Pride Month and this is a great example of that, to be able to bring young people out in wheelchairs and bring the Lexington School for the Deaf Basketball teams and really let them meet some of our officers that really are out here trying to try to keep crime down but also engage the community,” said Alden Foster, the Director of Youth Services and Community Engagement at the NYPD Community Affairs Bureau.

Inclusivity has become a driving force for Foster in his ongoing effort that NYPD has a place for everyone. 

“Today, we are really looking to show the disability community that the NYPD cares and we’re doing a lot of different things to engage them. And we need that partnership with that external partnership is important to fight crime. When we think about public safety, it is a shared responsibility and I think people forget the disability community sometime,” Foster added. 

Photo by Amanda Moses
Photo by Amanda Moses
Photo by Amanda Moses

The first game was set between members of the Lexington School for the Deaf (many of whom work with the NYPD through the Summer Youth Employment program).  These youths proved to be tough competitors, leading against the officers for almost both halves of their game; however, the NYPD won out by just a few points. 

Heriberto Almonte, an SYEP employee from the Lexington School for the Deaf was excited to play against the officers in his first basketball match against the NYPD. He is happy that the department is working spread awareness and create equal opportunities for the disabled community.  

“I feel like everyone can participate. Everyone from the disability community can participate in sport and you should be proud of what disability you have. This event will help the disability community who want more accessibility to opportunities even if it’s sports,” Alomonte said with the aid of ASL translator, Officer Angel Familia. 

NYC Fury versus NYPD 

Emma D’Antonio has always been a vibrant, active little girl participating in dance classes and gymnastics, but in 2018 she started to feel an odd numbness to her legs, and then 24 hours later she became paralyzed from the neck down. D’Antonio suffered from Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM,) an uncommon condition effecting 1 in 1 million children that is similar to polio affecting her motor neurons within her spinal cord.  

She spent almost half a year at Bayside’s St. Mary’s Hospital for Children undergoing extensive rehab, slowly regaining control of her body aside from her left leg. While D’Antonio thought all hope was lost in her fight to become active again, her mother, Valarie, learned about a wheelchair basketball demonstration at Queens College—NYC Rolling Fury. 

“Before I got this, I did gymnastics, and I was doing dance and then I thought I wasn’t gonna be able to play like anything. And I was just kind of to stay at home but now I get to do everything,” D’Antonio said happily, preparing for her match against the NYPD. 

“So, this is opportunities for her to participate in sports that she normally wouldn’t get to,” D’Antonio said. 

Photo by Amanda Moses
Photo by Amanda Moses
Photo by Amanda Moses
Photo by Amanda Moses

The NYPD basketball tournament saw officers strap into wheelchairs in attempt to compete with the NYC Rolling Fury, but the sheer speed and skill of the guest team saw officers struggling to keep up, let alone make the basket. The youngest team member is five years old, and their oldest player is 17, and each player showcased their talent. While the NYPD lost, they were all smiles applauding the might of the NYC Rolling Fury. 

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