DEPEW, N.Y. (WKBW) — Emily Keicher of Lancaster, New York loves basketball.
"It was all because of my dad." she said. "He was my inspiration to play basketball."
But, due to her physical condition, it can be hard to get Emily out on the court. Emily has spina bifida, a rare birth defect that does not allow the spinal cord to develop properly. To play sports, she must use adaptive equipment and in the past, she's played sled hockey, and wheelchair basketball.
"They had kids with physical disabilities, kids without physical disabilities [playing together,] and we thought, this was fantastic," Elizabeth Keicher, mother of Emily said. "But, we knew the program was coming to an end."
Emily's parents understood how much their daughter loved basketball, and they also knew that there was no league for her to play in. So, they decided to create their own. In October 2019, Chris and Liz Keicher founded Buffalo Wheelchair Basketball, a league for athletes with and without physical disabilities.
The team practices at the Boys and Girls Club in Depew and Chris Keicher is the coach.
"The first week we had five kids. The next week we had eight kids. The third week we had twelve kids, and now we got 18 to 20 kids every single week," Elizabeth Keicher said.
“We knew when we started the program that if we didn’t supply the wheelchairs we were gonna have a hard time recruiting people because 90% of the people I think who have a wheelchair, don’t also have sports wheelchair,” Elizabeth said.
Sport wheelchairs cost about $2000-$3000 each, and right now the Buffalo Wheelchair Basketball league is borrowing equipment from other adaptive leagues. But, the goal is to get their own.
"We have about $13,000 raised, so we’re hoping we can get five chairs," Elizabeth said. "We’re initially hoping to get ten, but long term, we would need 20 wheelchairs because we got 18-20 kids on the team."