OBSERVER Photo by Scott Kindberg
Trevon Jenifer listens to a question from the audience at Northwest Arena in Jamestown on Monday morning.
JAMESTOWN — Upon connecting on the final shot of an exhibition 2-on-2 wheelchair basketball game Monday morning, Jeremy Engquist raised his arms toward the rafters at Northwest Arena before ultimately receiving an enthusiastic handshake from a smiling Trevon Jenifer, a member of the United States Paralympic team.
Engquist, a special education teacher for Chautauqua Lake BOCES, and Chris Dole an adaptive physical education teacher, had volunteered to play in the pickup game and they sure seemed to enjoy it.
They also realized how challenging the game when operating from a wheelchair.
The men were among hundreds of area high school students, administrators and faculty who turned out to not only watch Jenifer and his friend, Harsh Thakkar, show off their hoops talents, but also to listen to their messages of overcoming obstacles, the importance of perseverance and making the right choices.
Jenifer, a former two-time All-American at Edinboro University and a multi-Olympic medalist for Team USA, was born with congenital amputation. Thakkar, meanwhile, was paralyzed from the waist down after suffering a gunshot wound nearly 20 years ago.
“We all go through a spot when it’s been good and we’ve all gone through a spot when it’s been bad,” Jenifer said, “but we can always reset. … I have played bad games, but I try not to let that one bad game affect the next possession, my teammates or the next game.”
Thakkar said one of his favorite quotes is, “Help others until they get to the point where they can help themselves.”
“Not everyone who struggles goes through things that you can see,” he added. “If you are struggling or see someone else struggling, lend a hand or ask them for help. We want to be able to get to the point where the more people you help, the more they are likely to help other people.”
Jenifer’s and Thakkar’s appearance was made possible through the efforts of Children’s Collaborative Solutions and Northwest Arena.
“We talk about this all the time at the schools,” said Patrick Smeraldo of Children’s Collaborative Solutions. “I see a lot of adults here that we know. I think you just have to find that person that you connect with. It can be a teacher you had or you just have to find that person to help you push through. … There are people in these schools that will help you day in and day out.”