SAN FRANCISCO – City officials, wheelchair basketball athletes, and South of Market community members on Wednesday celebrated the addition of 10 new custom sport wheelchairs at Gene Friend Recreation Center—part of the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department’s focus on adaptive sports.
The $40,000 purchase of the 10 wheelchairs were paid for as part of a $105,000 grant from the nonprofit San Franciscans for Sports and Recreation (SFFSR) to the Gene Friend Recreation Center. The organization has given nearly $2 million in grants to improve recreation programs in San Francisco since 2015.
The chairs will be free for members of the public with disabilities, and available for checkout with valid, government issued identification anytime the center is open for adult recreation. Gene Friend will also designate Fridays from 6-8 p.m. for wheelchair basketball games.
“The sport chairs are an incredible resource for SOMA residents with disabilities, whether they’re lifelong athletes or it’s their first time on the court,” said District 6 Supervisor Matt Haney. “It’s also a fun, accessible way to keep fit without leaving the center of urban life.”
Specialized sport wheelchairs, designed for speed and agility on the court, make for fast-paced and exciting games. But they can be prohibitively expensive for the average person.
“We are so excited to partner with San Franciscans for Sports and Recreation to expand recreational opportunities for everyone,” said San Francisco Recreation and Park Department General Manager Phil Ginsburg. “These sport chairs offer people with disabilities the opportunity to fall in love with adaptive recreation without having to invest in their own equipment.”
San Franciscans for Sports and Recreation has also funded the resurfacing of 15 public tennis courts at six locations throughout the city and contributed to the restoration of the Koret Playground in Golden Gate Park, as well as the Let’sPlaySF! fund to renovate 13 of the City’s most deserving playgrounds.
“As an organization founded and active in SOMA, all of us at San Franciscans for Sports and Recreation are particularly proud to have contributed $105,000 directly to the Gene Friend Recreation Center at 6th St. and Folsom,” said San Franciscans for Sports and Recreation Executive Director Seth Socolow. “We hope that the 10 sport wheelchairs, basketball shot clock, and youth uniforms funded through our grant will provide countless hours of sports fun for San Franciscans of all ages and abilities for many years to come.”
The wheelchairs are custom made by Melrose Wheelchairs USA! Following their unveiling, members of the Golden State Road Warriors and the BORP (Bay Area Outreach & Recreation Program). All Stars took to the court for a demo game. Members of the community were also given the opportunity to try the new chairs.
Golden State Road Warriors Captain and two-time MVP Chuck Gil recalled how wheelchair basketball reignited his passion for athletics several years after a bout of spinal meningitis.
“It was instant love—competing and being active, but also social aspect. I haven’t left the court since,” Gil said. “I’m thrilled that other people will get the same opportunity to discover the joy of adaptive sports right here at Gene Friend Recreation Center.”