By Carson McKinney
On Tuesday, Metro Area Community Empowerment, or MACE, facilitated wheelchair basketball and tennis games to encourage both disabled and able-bodied people to engage in and learn about adaptive sports.
Uploaded by Hotty Toddy on 2019-04-18.
Video by Carson McKinney
MACE is a nonprofit organization that provides recreational activities for people with disabilities. Its founder, Antonio Wright, is a former Jackson State University football player who was paralyzed from the waist down in a 1997 car accident. Despite the accident, he finished his degree in health, physical education and recreation and coached football for 16 years before retiring in 2010; but he soon grew idle.
“For about two weeks I was bored out of my mind,” Wright said. “Me and Rodney Sutherland, who is our CFO, got together and decided if I was bored and he was bored— we’re really active individuals in wheelchairs—I bet somebody else in the state of Mississippi was bored as well.”
Wright, Sutherland, and Wright’s now-passed godfather began playing wheelchair basketball at Jackson State University and invited able-bodied people to help. Since then, they have expanded to other adaptive sports like wheelchair basketball, softball and tennis.
“Our goal is to give people an opportunity to play these sports,” Wright said. “We provide for their wheelchairs, and we pay for hotel, gas and food. Our goal is to take away all excuses so there is no reason to not get out and try.”
Also a motivational speaker and godfather to dozens of children, Wright believes people with disabilities are capable of more than they think they are.
“It’s more than just the physical – it’s the thought, the idea, of what they can’t do,” Wright said. “They try to stop themselves with ‘I can’t do that or I don’t like that.’ Whatever it is that you’re thinking, that’s the disability. We want to take away those disabilities and make them handi-capable.”
Ashley Rainey, first-year master’s student in higher education and assistant for Outreach and Student Disability Services, believes networking with MACE was an impactful experience because she got to learn more about physical disabilities as an able-bodied person and improve her tennis game in a positive environment.
“One thing I like about them is that they’re very encouraging,” Rainey said. “If you hit the ball and it doesn’t go over the net, they encourage you and say ‘almost’ and ‘you got it.’”
According to Wright, Ole Miss is one of the first universities around the state to invite MACE. He said he hopes other schools will reach-out to his organization.
“We would love to do this around other universities and take this to high schools and elementary schools to make sure that people know there are adaptive sports there,” Wright said.