Investing in Ability campaign tips off on the hardwood

September 28, 2016  //  FOUND IN: UMHS News,

Paul Schulte represented Team USA in three Paralympic Summer Games.

Paul Schulte still remembers the day of his accident: May 6, 1989.

He had just turned 10 years old and was riding in the backseat of his family’s car while his mother drove and brother sat in the passenger seat.

The impact of the crash caused Schulte to break the L4 vertebrae in his back, forcing him to lose sensation from the waist down. His mother needed reconstructive facial surgery while his brother escaped with just some scratches and bruises.

The Manchester, Michigan natives were sent to UMHS following the accident.

“Years later, I look back and think, ‘My goodness, could I have been looked over by better nurses, better doctors and a better facility?’ I don’t think so,” said Schulte. The three-time Paralympian will return to U-M on Sunday, Oct. 9, this time as a participant in the 11th annual Army-Navy Wheelchair Basketball Game at Crisler Center.

The event, which features Paralympians, military veterans, ROTC cadets and students, kicks off the annual disability awareness campaign across the U-M campus. The campaign, titled “Investing in Ability,” will feature seminars, panel discussions and films that explore the interconnected nature of diversity and disability.

“Disability is an intrinsic part of diversity because almost everyone you know has, or will eventually have, some sort of disability, whether physically visible or hidden,” said Anna Schnitzer, coordinator of the U-M Council for Disability Concerns, which carries out the campaign. “The Investing in Ability events help educate and de-stigmatize all of our physical and mental differences.”

A wide variety of Investing in Ability events and activities begin Tuesday, Oct. 4 and coincide with National Disability Awareness Month. If you’d like to attend any event — or volunteer — please click here to find a complete schedule and more information.

Among the annual highlights of the campaign is the Army-Navy Wheelchair Basketball Game at Crisler Center. The contest tips off at 3 p.m., and is free and open to the public. Doors will open at 2 p.m. with music and a ceremony. All UMHS employees are encouraged to attend.

Twenty-seven years after his accident — and despite the fact that he now lives in Florida with his wife and 6-year-old son — Schulte is looking forward to the event, which he sees as a way to give back to UMHS.

“It’s a thrill to come back to Mott and UMHS after what everyone there did for me and my family,” he said. “I was a sports fanatic, so the staff encouraged me to take a basketball, go down to the courtyard in my wheelchair and just dribble around. I would just sit there and think to myself, ‘I’m going to get better. And I’m going to get better at basketball.’”

Following his recovery, he eventually joined a wheelchair basketball team in Ann Arbor. At 18, Schulte tried out for Team USA and earned a spot. He was also awarded a basketball scholarship to attend the University of Texas-Arlington.

Schulte went on to participate in three Paralympic Summer Games and at one point was considered the top wheelchair basketball player in the world. He is now retired from Team USA, but stays intimately involved with the sport, recently serving as an analyst for NBC’s Paralympic coverage in Rio de Janeiro.

Schulte said he would love to see Crisler filled for the game on Oct. 9 — and not just because it’s a showcase for world-class athletes. He has more personal motivation.

“Because I’d love to meet everyone at UMHS. Each person is involved in something that truly does save lives. There are a million other stories just like mine,” he said.

If you’d like to attend the wheelchair basketball game or any Investing in Ability event on campus and need accommodations, contact at least one week prior to the event.