Our story starts over 17 years ago. The team began as the Fayetteville Wheeltrotters in 1993. The team was supported by private donations and consisted of military veterans and local disabled individuals. The coach at that time was Charlie Hudnall, a paraplegic veteran formally stationed at Fort Bragg, NC. The team underwent a name change in 1995 to Physicians’ Total Rehab Flyers as their primary sponsor changed to Physicians’ Total Rehab Charitable Foundation. Charlie Hundall remained as coach and the players remained the same adding new players primarily from our local veteran groups. We changed the colors to red, white and blue and incorporated the flag in our logo to honor our veterans. In 1995 working as a recreational therapist at Physicians’ Total Rehab I began as team organizer. The PTR Flyers finished their last season in 2003. Charlie passed away that year and I moved on to a management position in diagnostic imaging. Several of the players continued to play for other teams however driving at times over 2 hours just to practice. I kept in contact with many of the former players through my involvement with Southeastern Wheelchair Sports Association and the regional wheelchair games. Several of the players approached me in the late spring of 2010 and asked if I would help bring the team back to Fayetteville. At that time I had begun serving on a newly formed nonprofit called Bridge II Sports. Bridge II Sports whose main goal was to bring together the community of Fayetteville and Cumberland County with the growing military population within Fort Bragg and develop adaptive sports programs both on a competitive and recreational level. It was a perfect fit.
I was excited to be involved again with this dynamic group of guys. The current board members of Bridge II Sports were eager to offer support and the team was back in Fayetteville. Unlike in the past the Fayetteville Flyers have the support of the entire community including the Fayetteville Parks and Recreation Department, DFMWR/Warrior Transition Program, Cape Fear Valley Health System, U.T.I. Medical Supply, Van Products and Orthopedic Services, Fayetteville PVA, Carolina Imaging and Southeastern Wheelchair Sports Association.
The Fayetteville Flyers were accepted as a sub group of the Southeastern Wheelchair Sports Association and will share in their nonprofit status. Our team recently rejoined the Carolina Wheelchair Basketball Conference and already has their 2010-2011 schedule. The team has been practicing weekly since May at a gym sponsored by our local hospital, Cape Fear Valley Health System. The Therapeutic Recreation staff has been actively volunteering and attempting to pull together wheelchair for the members who do not have a sports wheelchair.
We recently finished the conference season winning the East Division and placing 2nd in the
Carolina Wheelchair Basketball Conference Tournement in Charlotte.
Our coaches are Brad Melvin from the local parks and recreation department and Terrance (Smitty) Smith a paralyzed veteran who has been with the team for over 10 years. Smitty serves as Vice President of the Virginia Mid Atlantic PVA. Four of the other team members are also active member of either the Mid Atlantic or Southeastern PVA. We are actively working with the Warrior Transition Program at Fort Bragg in attempt to recruit new injured veterans to the team.
The team and supporting organization, SEWSA, includes members and volunteers from all ethnic, racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. The geographic area served by the Fayetteville Flyers is 120 miles surrounding Fayetteville but does not exclude particpants from outside of this area. SEWSA’s involvement extends across the Carolina’s however the regional games held every spring in Myrtle Beach, SC involve participants from across the eastern portion of the US.
In the past we have had difficulties linking organizations to available programs in our community. In prior years the wheelchair basketball team as well as other off shoots such as a track and field, weightlifting, wheelchair racing and hand cycling programs has been driven by a select few. Now with the involvement of numerous community agencies along with the individuals from the PVA and Fort Bragg the team support is wide spread and will continue as the staff in these agencies change.
Fayetteville currently lacks an organized disabled sport team. We have several individuals involved in a variety of adaptive sports however there is a need for a regular scheduled practice and gathering point for newly injured athletes to be exposed to new competitive skills such as wheelchair basketball. Along with the skill of playing basketball from a wheelchair much more goes on at a practice and during the season. The players teach each other and newly injured participates such as local veterans what resources are available in the community from adaptive driving and choosing a sports wheelchair to individual health concerns.
Currently the Fayetteville Flyers are partnered with Carolina Wheelchair Basketball Conference, Fayetteville Parks and Recreation, Cape Fear Valley Health Systems, Van Products and Orthopedic Services, Virginia Mid Atlantic PVA, Bridge II Sports, Carolina Imaging, Southeastern Wheelchair Sports Association, U.T.I Medical Supply and DFMWR Recreation Division Fort Bragg. Key personnel consist of Terrance Smith coach and VP of the Virginia Mid Atlantic PVA, Booker Tee Foster team caption and member of the Mid Atlantic PVA, Brad Melvin (CTRS) assistant coach and recreation therapist at the Gilmore Center and Lana Witiak (CTRS) team rep and center manager at Carolina Imaging.