- Associated Press - Friday, June 20, 2014

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa (AP) - A fundraising effort has paid for the specialized wheelchairs needed for an annual sports camp that lets disabled children take part in activities ranging from basketball to rock climbing.

The annual SportAbility of Iowa Adapted Sports Camp had been in doubt this year because of the theft last winter of SportAbility’s wheelchairs and a trailer in Cedar Rapids. Although the trailer was found and a man arrested, most of the wheelchairs were ruined.

SportAbility began a fundraising campaign and came up with nearly $50,000 in cash and other donations. The group now has at least 20 wheelchairs.

The camp at the University of Northern Iowa lets participants who have lower-limb disabilities use specialized wheelchairs and hand cycles that make more activities possible. Participants at the camp, which continues through Saturday, are aged 6 to 18.

Camp organizer Jack Eherenman told the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier the goal is to help the children be active.

“Before we started the camp, nobody was teaching them to do anything,” he said.

Sports include basketball, track, archery, rugby, volleyball, rock climbing, weight training and tennis.

It’s the fifth year that Noah Thomas, 15, of Story City, has attended the camp.

“In normal society, there’s not many chances to play sports in a wheelchair,” Thomas said. He also enjoys watching “everyone accomplishing what you first thought you couldn’t.”

Caitlin Hageman, who earned a degree in exercise science from UNI in 2012, said the camp makes a difference in participants’ lives.

“I’m all about sports, so I’m glad I can introduce sports to kids,” she said. “Just because you’re in a wheelchair doesn’t mean you can’t participate or have fun.”

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Information from: Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, http://www.wcfcourier.com