Recreational Opportunities for Wheelchair Users

Ray Brown: Boot camp composure gets results

by Quest Staff on January 5, 2009 - 5:22pm

Like many people who served in the U.S. Marine Corps, Ray Brown, 59, sees no difference between then and now. “I’m still a Marine,” he attests firmly.

That dogged determination no doubt has been largely instrumental in the success of Wheelin’ Team 457. It’s an organization Brown formed in 2003 to provide recreational opportunities for people with disabilities who use wheelchairs.

He himself uses both manual and power wheelchairs for mobility. He learned he has distal muscular dystrophy in 1996, after working 25 years as a respiratory therapist, and now, he says, “My legs are shot,” although he still has some upper body use.

Wheelin’ Team 457 gets its numerical component from American Legion Post 457 that provided meeting facilities in North Branch, Mich., where Brown lives. Started with six members, the group now has 75.

Ray Brown
Shooting, archery, fishing and hunting are just a few of the activities enjoyed by Brown's "Wheelin' Team 457"

The first activity offered to members was shooting air rifles on a 10-meter range at the Legion post. Now the curricula have expanded to include archery, ice fishing, summer bass fishing, hunting of many different types, and much more.

Specialized equipment like modified wheelchair joysticks and sip-and-puff controls helps members operate fishing equipment and firearms that otherwise could be a challenge.

Brown said he formed the local club because he and other wheelchair users found they had to travel long distances to participate in recreational activities and wheelchair games competitions.

“I hate wheelchair brakes,” he says. “You’ve got to get out of the house and get moving. I get a big reward just from seeing people try. If they’ll try, I’ll give them a reason to win.”

And win they do. In November, 17 members of Wheelin’ Team 457 were inducted into the Athletes with Disabilities Hall of Fame in Rochester Hills, Mich., for winning events in wheelchair games events.

A guy who’ll always be a Marine helped them get there.

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