Written by Rebecca Strobel, Community Supports Coordinator at the Lehigh Valley Center for Independent Living, a Funding Assistance Center for PATF
Everett Deibler was 8 years old when he saw his first wheelchair basketball game at a school in Lebanon County, PA. An avid sports lover, he was instantly drawn to the competitive nature of the sport and became eager to get involved.
His passion and interest in the sport led his mother, Chris Deller, to push for the establishment of a wheelchair basketball team in his community. It wasn’t until they started competing that Everett discovered other players were using sport wheelchairs instead of playing in their everyday chairs. He also found that it could cost anywhere from $2,000-$4,000 to purchase one. Unaware of any resources to pay for the sports chairs, their local team began to host fundraising events so they could put money towards new sports chairs for the team.
With his new sports chair, Everett excelled at the sport and continued to organize games throughout high school. In college he joined the “Fighting Scotts” at Edinboro University, playing intercollegiate teams across the nation. “Being able to play adaptive sports has meant a great deal to my life,” says Everett. “I have always loved sports, so having the chance to play has been a dream come true.”
Everett currently lives in Allentown, PA with his wife Ashley and works full time at Lehigh Valley Center for Independent Living (LVCIL), an Allentown based Center for Independent Living, as a Transition Services Program Manager. He also manages LVCIL’s wheelchair basketball team, the Freewheelers. The Freewheelers are a local team comprised of LVCIL staff, volunteers and consumers. In addition to getting together for weekly practices, the team aspires to spread disability awareness across the community by hosting games against local organizations, as well as high school and college sports teams. Everett explains, “Playing wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby has allowed me to compete and make lifelong friends, and travel the world. Helping to manage the Freewheelers is a way for me to give back to the community that gave so much to me.”
As a team leader and mentor for the Freewheelers, Everett makes it a priority to share information on funding sources with dedicated athletes who want to purchase their own sports chair, including PATF: https://patf.us, the Challenged Athletes Foundation: http://www.challengedathletes.org, the Katie Kirlin Fund: http://katiekirlinfund.org/ and The Kelly Brush Foundation: http://kellybrushfoundation.org/.