This track-out week is anything but a break for Austin Pittsley.
The seventh-grader at Lufkin Road Middle School in Apex has been busy writing letters, making phone calls and putting up posters.
It's all to promote a wheelchair basketball event Friday featuring able-bodied Lufkin Lightning players from his school and Junior Thunder players from Bridge II Sports, a Durham-based nonprofit that provides adaptive and wheelchair sports opportunities in the Triangle.
"It's for kids who have disabilities, and they play in their wheelchairs," Pittsley, a 12-year-old Cary resident, said.
As part of his August bar mitzvah preparation, the youth is trying to raise $5,000 to buy two sports wheelchairs.
The chairs are greatly needed, said Bridge II Sports executive director and founder Ashley Thomas, because just six of the specialized chairs are available to be shared among 17 players.
"He approached us, and we were very honored," Thomas said, noting that this is the first time a young person has taken on such a project for the organization.
"He chose a very big goal," Thomas said.
The special chairs - called sports chairs - are "just bigger and more at an angle so [the wheelchair athletes] can push better and turn better," Pittsley said.
Besides the wheelchairs, Thomas said, the community receives a long-term benefit as well - opportunities for exercise that helps wheelchair users stay healthy by avoiding problems cause by lack of fitness.
"My goal is to keep the kids physically healthy," said Thomas, who said she was born with spina bifida and knows the challenges of mobility issues. "... Not getting secondary health issues is so important."
Pittsley, who plays lacrosse for his school and plays football and basketball on recreational leagues, connected with Bridge II Sports youth wheelchair basketball program when he attended an adult game.
"My mom asked if I wanted to go to one of the adult teams' games, and that sounded very enjoyable," Pittsley said. "And then when my bar mitzvah project came up, it just seemed like the perfect thing to do."
He ended up attending youth team practices and "just fell in love with it," said his mother, Maura Silverman.
He made friends, too.
"All the kids who have been playing on this team, some of them are my age or younger, and I've just been able to get along with all the kids," Pittsley said. "It's fun to have new friends and just a great experience."
And so a short-term project became a long-term relationship with Bridge II Sports.
"Most kids don't do as much as I've been trying to do for this ... ," said Pittsley, who attends Temple Beth Shalom, "but I think that this should be a bigger project so that the community can get something out of it."
Friends, family, school staff, fellow students and members of his temple have been contributing for the event, which is not open to the public.
"We've gotten a lot of donations for raffles that we're going to hold," Pittsley said.
The Lufkin Road basketball team is helping, too, and Pittsley hopes those players gain from the experience.
"They're going to play against the wheelchair basketball team just to see how it is to play in a wheelchair," Pittsley said.
Friday's event will include a demonstration by the Triangle Thunder adult wheelchair team plus opportunities for students and families to try a few wheelchair basketball drills themselves, Maura Silverman said.
When the activities are done, Pittsley hopes the project will continue to help the community.
"I think its a great thing to help other people, mostly people that you don't know," he said. "I think this project will spread the word about wheelchair sports, not just basketball.
"I just want to get the word out about wheelchair sports and how you can help."
To help, contact Bridge II Sports, or mail a donation to Bridge II Sports, 2106 Greenwich Place, Durham, NC 27705.
Got more recreational sports news?
Report your own recreational sports news on the free community edition of Play!
Or post a photo of your team or an outstanding individual competitor.
You'll also find an extensive Play! calendar of tryouts, tournaments, camps, clinics and events, including the Triangle's many running events.
Looking for a team or league? Try the Guide to Triangle Recreational Sports.
Does your team need equipment or donations, or do you have equipment or facility time to donate? Check out the Play! Exchange.
- Teri Boggess