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More than Just a Sport: The Wheelers are the Upper Valley’s First Power-Chair Soccer Team

Mar 11, 2019 02:27PM
In 2011, Kim Estes of Hanover, New Hampshire, took her then 11-year-old daughter Samantha to see a soccer game at the University of New Hampshire in Durham. But this was no ordinary game. Kim and Samantha watched in awe as athletes zipped up and down the court in power wheelchairs. This was power soccer, an adaptive team sport played around the world. Seeing the sport in action was pivotal for the Estes family, especially Samantha, and they were hopeful others would soon feel the same.

Samantha, who has a physical disability, immediately fell in love with power soccer—so much so that Kim and her husband Nick began driving to Durham every weekend, nearly two hours from Hanover, so that Samantha could participate on a team. (There was no power soccer team in the Upper Valley at the time.)

“Seeing her in action on this team, I got to see her be part of something that was designed specifically for her,” says Kim. After a year of commuting south and with Samantha’s interest in the sport growing by the day, Kim and Nick had an idea: Why not bring the sport closer to home and start a team in the Upper Valley?

Team Effort Gives Rise to the Wheelers

Kim, a clinical social worker by day, galvanized the community around the effort, spreading the word to recruit new players. Next, she found a place to hold team practices; the CCBA in Lebanon was kind enough to open its basketball courts to the newly founded team for practices and games.

The Upper Valley Wheelers, which they became known as, started their first season with used equipment. But through fundraisers organized by the team, a generous donation from the Jack and Dorothy Byrne Foundation, and Samantha’s work with Positive Tracks, the team was able to secure new equipment that meets league regulations—specifically STRIKE FORCETM power wheelchairs, which can cost about $7,500 a chair. In addition, the Upper Valley Wheelers were able to establish savings so that equipment could be maintained and participation on the team could be free of charge.

For more information on power soccer, visit powersoccerusa.org. To get involved with the Upper Valley Wheelers, contact Kim Estes at (603) 359-5084 and visit their Facebook page: facebook.com/UpperValleyPowerSoccer.

 

By Justine Dominici

Photos by Rob Strong

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