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LeBlond senior commits to Arizona for adaptive athletics

St. Joseph News-Press - 11/12/2023

Nov. 10—One Bishop LeBlond student has never let his disability stop him from pursuing his passions, and thanks to his perseverance, he'll be heading to the University of Arizona to play wheelchair basketball.

Adversity comes in many different forms and at many different points in life. For Elliott Murphy, adversity started at birth.

The Bishop LeBlond senior was born with spina bifida, which left him paralyzed.

This never stopped Murphy, who grew obsessed with all things sports from an early age. Early on, his passion was in adaptive skiing.

When a back surgery ended his season in seventh grade, a friend's invite sent him in another direction.

"One of my friends in St. Joe actually played for a team in Omaha, Nebraska, and he said 'You should come out and try to play wheelchair basketball,'" Murphy said. "I started in the end of my sixth grade year. My first full season was my seventh grade year."

The only problem was that there were no wheelchair basketball teams in St. Joseph, meaning the Murphy family would have to head south to Kansas City in order to play.

"There's just not, there's not many adaptive disabled people, disabled kids in the St. Joe area," Murphy said. "It's really let me meet a lot of people through the sport."

Being able to surround himself with kids in similar situations was beneficial to Murphy, who has always been the only one in a wheelchair at school.

Despite this difference, he has always been welcomed and accepted by his peers. This has led to Murphy breaking out of his shell and joining many different groups at school, including the academic team and managing the basketball team.

"I just always told him, 'People are watching you because you are the only person you know in a wheelchair in a lot of your settings,'" said Caroline Clark-Murphy, Elliott's mom. "'And you have the power to be an ombudsman for the disabled population.' Where it brings us a lot of joy is that he is where he is and we're very grateful for the support that he's had."

As Murphy heads to the University of Arizona in August to play wheelchair basketball, he will continue to help people with disabilities around the world.

Murphy has started Wheels To Wheels, a nonprofit organization partnered with Hope Haven. The organization provides wheelchairs, walkers, canes and crutches to those with disabilities.

"According to the National Institute for Health, there are over 20 million people around the world that are either, that need chairs and have no access to them or have access to really inadequate equipment," said Clark-Murphy. "At our home tournaments, we have the teams from across the country bring chairs, and then there's a driver that then drives it to South Dakota, where Hope Haven is. We raised money and they were able to raise over $30,000 to send a crate to Costa Rica of chairs."

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