Bonneville High student surprised with new wheelchair

Sep 29 2011 - 11:53pm

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MATTHEW ARDEN HATFIELD/Standard-Examiner 
Jordan Avis, a student at Bonneville High School, is surprised with a new basketball wheelchair during an assembly on Thursday at the school as Mona Oversteg (left), from the Weber School District and Phil Swanson from the Weber School Foundation watch. The chair was a gift to Avis from the Weber School Foundation, which learned that he was wearing out his wheelchair, which isn’t designed for the rigors of sports, by playing basketball.
MATTHEW ARDEN HATFIELD/Standard-Examiner 
Jordan Avis, a student at Bonneville High School, is surprised with a new basketball wheelchair during an assembly on Thursday at the school as Mona Oversteg (left), from the Weber School District and Phil Swanson from the Weber School Foundation watch. The chair was a gift to Avis from the Weber School Foundation, which learned that he was wearing out his wheelchair, which isn’t designed for the rigors of sports, by playing basketball.

OGDEN -- The school drum line roused the crowd at Thursday morning's Homecoming Royalty assembly at Bonneville High School.

Weber School Foundation member Phil Swanson quieted the auditorium audience, which was most of the school's 1,398 students. Then Swanson called to the stage a student athlete waiting in the wings.

Wheelchair basketball player Jordan Avis used his muscled arms to roll his chair to the podium. Students hooted their support as they called his name.

Swanson held out a pair of new basketball shoes to the 16-year-old student, born with spina bifida and paralyzed from the waist down.

"Do you think these will help your game?" Swanson asked the confused teen. "Will these help you grip the floor?"

Awkward.

Jordan just smiled, and shook his head no.

"And how about this?" Swanson asked, as Mona Oversteg, an occupational therapist with the Weber School District, zipped in on a top-of-the-line basketball wheelchair.

The crowd went wild, and Jordan, overcome, first covered his mouth, then folded his arms over his chest as if he were afraid he would burst. He was stunned into silence, he later confessed.

In an instant, Jordan lifted himself into the new chair, which has angled wheels for stability and safety belts to secure his waist and feet. He spun backward in graceful circles as his fellow students cheered.

The chair was a gift from the Weber School Foundation, which hosts an annual Christmas Tree Jubilee, with profits from donated-tree sales targeted for special needs students. This year's event will be Nov. 22, 23 and 25 at the Eccles Conference Center in downtown Ogden.

The foundation heard about Jordan after his school bus driver reported that the young man's standard wheelchair was falling apart. Swanson, who owns National Seating & Mobility in Ogden, contacted Jordan to ask about the wheelchair's dire condition.

"He looked embarrassed, and told me he had been playing wheelchair basketball," Swanson said.

Swanson contacted Invacare Corp., which manufactures sports chairs, and arranged for a 50 percent discount to be passed on to the foundation, which paid the remaining $2,000. The new chair, which doesn't fit through Bonneville High doorways, will be used for basketball only so Jordan can keep his standard wheelchair in better condition.

"He loves basketball. He lives for basketball," said Del Avis, Jordan's father, who came to the school to watch the surprise presentation. "He can't wait for the season."

Jordan plays on one of two Junior Jazz teams for wheelchair players and with another team at the Clearfield Aquatic Center.

Jennifer Avis said her son borrowed a basketball wheelchair once and marveled at the ease with which he could maneuver, spin, and zip across the floor.

"He wanted to try out for the regular basketball team in junior high, but they felt it would be too confusing for the other players," she said. "Jordan has always had a laid-back attitude, and we always told him to try everything. He has done 5K races. He is competitive. His brothers can't beat him at arm wrestling."

Oversteg said it was great to see the student body cheering for Jordan.

"For the regular-ed students to see someone with a disability as an athlete is big," she said. "Jordan is a great role model."

In the hallway outside the continuing assembly, Jordan checked out the features of his new sports chair, and struggled to regain his composure and speech.

"It was a big surprise," he said, with a big smile on his face. "I was shocked."

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