The first time Sam Sturkey rolled her wheelchair onto a basketball court, she was only five years old. Within an hour, young Sam was certain wheelchair basketball was not for her.
A year later, with all the wisdom of age six and a newly fitted wheelchair, Sturkey gave basketball another shot. This time, she found a passion that would sustain her through childhood and beyond.
Sturkey, who was born with the spinal condition spina bifida, spent the next 13 years playing for Katie’s Komets, a Philadelphia-based co-ed wheelchair basketball team for youth with walking disabilities.
Now an ebullient presence on campus in her sophomore year studying Pyschology, Sturkey smiled as she greeted athletes arriving for Cabrini’s second annual wheelchair basketball game inside Dixon Center on Monday, April 17.
Cavalier student athletes, seated in wheelchairs provided by Katie’s Komets, took to the hardwood to face the Komets. Just before tip-off, Cabrini Women’s Basketball Head Coach Kate Pearson asked the question on everyone’s mind: which team would Sturkey play for—her former team the Komets or the Cabrini squad?
Sturkey, who serves as Women’s Basketball team manager, joined her Cabrini teammates.
“It actually means the world to me just because of how much the girls show support for me and have my back,” Sturkey said.
Try as she may to deflect the spotlight, it was clear from the crowd’s excitement every time Sturkey got the ball that she was the star of the night.
In addition to her impact in Athletics, Sturkey serves as Vice President of the Exceptional Children’s Club, a special needs advocacy club on campus; as a Cabrini Next Steps mentor, guiding a freshman through their first year on campus; and as a Student Ambassador in the Admissions office, touring with families visiting Cabrini.
Sturkey chose to attend Cabrini largely due to its accessible campus, particularly the two-story ramp that connects Founder’s Hall and Widener Campus Center.
“I am terrified of elevators,” she said with a laugh. “So, just having that accessibility of being able to go from one floor to another and not have to take an elevator, and having that freedom of having another way to get around, is kind of what sold me to come here.”
Sturkey wants to use her Pyschology degree to help children with disabilities as a child life specialist, but her involvement in sports has put her on “the cusp” of sports psychology, she said. She plans to integrate the two passions in her career after graduation.
“Doing something like this I think opens people’s eyes to the idea that we’re all athletes, we just do it in a different way,” she said.
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