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Chicago Wheelchair Bulls going for basketball glory in tournament play

Chicago Wheelchair Bulls player Kyle Gribble Elggets little 'Air' during recent  benefit basketball game against ArlingtHeights Fire Department played

Chicago Wheelchair Bulls player, Kyle Gribble, of Elgin, gets a little "Air" during a recent benefit basketball game against the Arlington Heights Fire Department, played at St. Viator High School. | Brian O'Mahoney/For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 14, 2013 6:36AM

This year, the road to basketball glory in Louisville goes through St. Viator High School.

The Chicago Wheelchair Bulls, based around the northwest suburbs, played their fifth annual fundraising game against the Arlington Heights Fire Department recently in St. Viator’s gym. The squad will use the money to fund its trip to the National Wheelchair Basketball Association’s championship tournament, held April 3-6 in Louisville.

“For them to play us, I think they get more out of it than we do,” said Seth Goldberg, fundraiser chairman and a forward on the team. “Everybody laughs, it’s everybody having a great time.”

Area players

The Bulls had the better time this year, winning 110-106 to take a 3-2 lead in the series. The game was their first in the St. Viator High School gym, a larger space that, despite the bad weather, brought in a larger crowd and a larger revenue: about $6,000.

“The weather hurt us, but the location worked out a lot better,” said Goldberg, who was impressed by the school sending their band, cheerleaders and pom-pon girls to the event. “It was really unbelievable.”

The Bulls are not affiliated with the National Basketball Association club in any direct way. The Chicago Wheelchair Bulls make their home at the NorthEast DuPage Special Recreation Association, but the Bulls let them wear the official jerseys. The Bulls also give the wheelchair team a game during halftimes of some of their home appearances.

Once, point guard Derrick Rose came into the club’s United Center locker room to meet them.

Goldberg said they tried to talk him into a wheelchair, and a game.

“He was just laughing,” Goldberg recalled. “They don’t want the risk of him getting hurt.”

Goldberg, 30, has been working his entire Bulls career to bring the team more recognition, and working his entire life to raise awareness of athletes with disabilities. Born with metabolic muscular dystrophy, the natural competitor tried wheelchair baseball, hockey and skiing, but found love with basketball.

“Wheelchair basketball has been my passion,” he said.

Beside promoting his team, he also takes every chance he gets to speak to elementary schools about children with disabilities.

“I want to show the community that, even if you have a disability, but you have the mind to do something, you can do it,” he said. “Look beyond the person in the wheelchair, and look at who they are, and not what they use.

“If I can make a difference in one person, I feel like we can start a chain.”

The Chicago Wheelchair Bulls, founded in 1982, are currently ranked 14th out of 70 American and Canadian NWBA squads.

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