Mandan News

Dan Ulmer: Dreams in Motion an amazing experience

My sister Bee (Jenny) has found herself in the midst of something you should at least see but it’s more fun to participate in. They’re just getting started so I promised to donate my fee for this week’s topic. Yep, this is a plug, so if you don’t like being solicited you might want to do something else with your time.

Since you seem to still be with me here I’ll get on with it. It’s called “Dreams In Motion.” In order to fully explain I have to go back to when I was a college student at Jamestown College, ’68 to ’72. Both of my loyal readers will recall that I majored in whatever I could pass and worked full-time as a psychiatric technician at the Jamestown State Hospital.

During that time I worked with the some of the most unfortunate folks amongst us. Most of them had incredibly debilitating disorders… schizophrenia, depression, alcoholism, severe psychosis, retardation, odd deformities from having to being restrained over long periods of time to folks who seemed as normal as you and I… on and on and on…

I was 19 when I started work at the state hospital and in the midst of my second year of college trying to figure out who I was (still am by the way). I was going to school full-time, working full-time, and somehow I still found time to engage in other things.

And one of the most delightful things I took on was playing wheelchair basketball with the kids at the Ann Carlson School. It was here that I learned that those folks who we see rolling around town in wheelchairs are people just like you and me. I still remember the first time a kid who looked pretty busted up clinging to a special railing that extended the length of the hallway. He was wearing a red helmet and I thought he was gonna fall so I reached for him and he said, “Back off man, it may not look like it but I can do this on my own.” I backed off and we could hardly keep up with him as he led us to the gym and assigned us our wheelchairs whilst retrieving theirs. Then the kids proceeded to run circles around us while we smashed into each other, walls, bleachers, and occasionally dump ourselves.

Every Wednesday we college kids would head over to Ann Carlson where they’d put us in a wheelchair and their home team would kick our butts in basketball… and outside of huge blisters on our palms (we learned to wear gloves, the kids used their bare hands) it was great fun to roll around with the kids and we all looked forward to Wednesday nights.

So like I was saying my sister Bee, along with a bunch of other volunteers, has been getting this thing called Dreams in Motion underway where kids and adults in wheelchairs and kids and adults that have never been in a wheelchair play sled hockey, curling, soccer, dance like Kachinas, and who knows what’s next.

The fun part is watching the spectators trying to figure out which one of the kids is supposed to be in a chair and which one doesn’t need one, and if you get the chance you gotta either try it or see it…

I attended their curling match and the most noticeable thing in the VFW curling arena were the smiles on all of the participant’s faces. They’d roll up to their line, a volunteer would hook up the rock and the wheelchair bound participant would slide it across the ice while everyone seemed to hold their breath in hopes that their rock would score…

The magic in this is that all the participants are on equal ground; the kids who didn’t need a chair were actually at a disadvantage to those who actually needed a chair. On one lane the adults we’re having a fairly serious competition and the rest of the folks not so much… but the not so much folks seemed to be smiling more and we spectators’ smiles were pretty intense too.

My brother and sister have dedicated their careers to helping kids and families with special needs, me not so much, so I’m very proud of both of them. Jenny and the other volunteers, thru Dreams in Motion, offer us a really fun way to acquaint ourselves with what it’s like to work through some of the more difficult challenges that life hands some folks.

Bee tells me that Dreams in Motion is just getting underway and their biggest challenge is accumulating the equipment to keep going (special sleds for hockey, racing wheelchairs, and such)… so here’s hoping that you not only find some time to check it out but maybe a way to help her obtain the equipment they need to continue. So if that’s tweaked your interest here’s their website, and their Facebook page is “Dreams in Motion Nonprofit Group,” and if you’d like to see what I’m talking about the wheel chair soccer season gets underway on March 17 from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. at Centennial Grade School in Bismarck… Check it out it’s amazing…