Challenged Athletes Foundation and National Wheelchair Basketball Association Host Panel Discussion to Empower Female Adaptive Athletes

November 12, 2020

SAN DIEGO, CA – (November 12, 2020) – Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) and National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA) are set to co-host an engaging discussion on the importance of female participation in sports. Moderated by Paralympian Andrea Woodson-Smith, the panel will be held virtually on November 18 at 1:00pm PST and will include highly accomplished players discussing how sport is an integral part of building self-esteem and confidence. The discussion will also shine a light on the growing sport of wheelchair basketball, articulate the benefits of adaptive sports and highlight incredible stories of accomplished women in the game.

“Team sports were a huge part of building my own self esteem and confidence. As part of a team, I learned valuable communication and interpersonal skills that can be translated to so many areas of life. And while I loved being on a team as I came up through the wheelchair basketball pipeline, I was usually the only woman competing on a team of all men, until I hit the national team,” said Megan Blunk, Team USA Paralympic Gold Medalist. “Only 21% of wheelchair basketball players are female, and I hope to encourage more female adaptive athletes to connect with their local adaptive sports groups to get involved at the grassroots level.”

CAF and NWBA are committed to amplifying the voice of adaptive female athletes and increasing participatation in adaptive sports. The panel includes accomplished wheelchair basketball female athletes who will share how sports have been an integral part of building their self-esteem and confidence.

  • Moderator, Andrea Wooden-Smith was D1 collegiate basketball athlete until she was sidelined after a collision on the court where she sustained three hip fractures and irreversible osteoarthritis. She immediately took to wheelchair basketball and was selected as a member of Team USA Paralympic Womens Wheelchair Basketball team. She’s a coach, mentor, sports envoy and holds leadership positions in the NWBA
  • Panelist Megan Blunk is a Paralympic Gold Medalist in Wheelchair Basketball who discovered adaptive sports after a motorcycle accident paralyzed her from the waist down.
  • Panelist Courtney Ryan is a Team USA Wheelchair Basketball member with her sights set on the Tokyo 2021 Paralympics. She was a collegiate soccer player until at 19 years old, she sustained a spinal cord injury (SCI) after a blood clot burst in her spinal cord.
  • Panelist Ella Rodriguez is a below the knee amputee from Northern California. A current high school student, Rodriguez plays wheelchair basketball for Bay Area Outreach Program and participates on her high school track and field team.

Participants can register here: https://support.challengedathletes.org/womenspanel

CAF continues to fulfill its mission of helping athletes get back into the game of life through sport. Basketball is third most popular sport in the world and wheelchair basketball equipment is the number one requested CAF grant every year. With the help of donors, sponsors and fundraising, CAF has funded over $1 million in chairs, coaching and training and competition travel in 2020 alone. The 2021 CAF Grant Application is open from October 1-November 30th.

To introduce new female adaptive athletes to the game, Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) and the National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA) recently launched The Wheelchair Basketball Training Zone that includes a comprehensive library of instructional videos and resources featuring Team USA Paralympians and NWBA players. It also provides resources and access to equipment, teams, tournaments in an effort to grow the sport and further develop athletes already in the game. The Wheelchair Basketball Training Zone is designed to make the sport accessible to more athletes with physical disabilities with a sharp focus on increasing diversity, youth and female participation. https://www.challengedathletes.org/training-zone/

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About the Challenged Athletes Foundation

The Challenged Athletes Foundation® (CAF) is a world leader in helping people with physical challenges lead active, healthy lifestyles. CAF believes that participation in physical activity at any level increases self-esteem, encourages independence and enhances quality of life.  Since 1994, more than $123 million has been raised and over 30,000 funding requests from people with physical challenges in all 50 states and dozens of countries have been satisfied. Additionally, CAF’s outreach efforts impact another 60,000 individuals each year. Whether it’s a $2,500 grant for a handcycle, helping underwrite a carbon fiber running foot not covered by insurance, or arranging enthusiastic encouragement from a mentor who has triumphed over a similar challenge, CAF’s mission is clear: give opportunities and support to those with the desire to live active, athletic lifestyles. To learn more, visit challengedathletes.org or call 858-866-0959.

About NWBA

The National Wheelchair Basketball Association is the recognized National Organization for Wheelchair Basketball by the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation and the High- Performance Management Organization by the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee. The NWBA trains and selects teams for participation in the Paralympic Games, World Championships, and other international competitions. The NWBA was founded in 1949, and today consists of 225 teams across seven divisions: Adult Division (I, II and III), Women’s Division, Intercollegiate Men’s Division, Intercollegiate Women’s Division and Junior Division. For more information, visit: www.nwba.org.