Maximus Wong, an enthusiastic and energetic 5 year-old from Flushing, NY doesn’t let using a wheelchair get in the way of his love of sports. Three years ago, “Max” underwent surgery to remove a spinal tumor which dramatically affected his ability to walk. Ever since, Max’s dad Elijah, and the entire Wong family have made it their mission to seek out opportunities for him to be active despite these new challenges.
Last year, they were thrilled to find out about United Spinal Association’s Kids Sports Spectacular (KSS), an annual event held at the Wells Fargo Center, in Philadelphia, PA that brings together kids with disabilities and their families for a fun-filled day of adaptive sports clinics, including basketball, tennis, soccer, baseball, and handcycling.
It was just what Max needed to move forward.
The Wong family made the trek from Queens to attend KSS for the first time in 2012 hoping it would leave a lasting impression on Max. The impact was beyond their expectations.
“It has led to many great opportunities for him. We’re very excited to be back here,” Elijah said upon returning for this year’s KSS, which took place on Saturday, August 17th.
Max brought even more family members this time around, including his proud grandparents to take part in the festivities. Ultimately, KSS has enabled Max to bond with new friends and mentors––all living proof that the sky’s the limit when it comes to his abilities.
Since attending KSS, Max has joined adaptive sled hockey and tennis clubs in his local community, driven by the camaraderie of teammates and coaches that have accepted him with open arms and amazing encouragement.
“It was clear to me that Max was extremely eager to learn new skills and improve at everything he did. To witness his confidence soar and all his accomplishments in only a year is what makes KSS so rewarding to be a part of. I wouldn’t miss this event for the world,” explained Lindell Lowe, a West Philadelphia native and KSS instructor for the past 5 years who was born with spina bifida.
Like many instructors involved with KSS, Lowe plays a big role in helping participants connect with local recreational opportunities so they can continue on their path to success, not just in sports but life.
“For most attendees, it’s all about keeping in touch and helping each other find new outlets. KSS provides the seeds to continue to grow,” said Marlene Perkins, KSS coordinator and United Spinal’s vice president of Corporate and Community Relations.
Max was just was one of many returning participants. In tow, many kids brought a troop of family members and supporters, eager to cheer them on.
“There are many familiar smiles here today and that’s always encouraging,” Perkins added.
Gavin Toney, a 10 year-old from West Chester, PA who was born without hands or lower legs has been attending KSS with his mom for the past 6 years.
“I love coming here. It’s so much fun, especially playing baseball,” Toney said.
“He’s made so many friends [at KSS]. I hope one day, we’ll find another child that has similar abilities that he can connect with, but we’re so grateful to United Spinal for hosting this event,” said Jenell Toney, Gavin’s mom.
“Despite his unique situation, it’s evident that Gavin doesn’t let anything slow him down and he’s become an inspiration to many participants over the years,” said Perkins.
Other attendees from this year’s KSS included the TOPSoccer program of Marlton, NJ which offers kids with mental or physical disabilities ages 5-18 the opportunity to learn and play soccer. Coach Marc vonBerg brought along a bevy of young, spirited volunteers from his program to assist with a soccer clinic at KSS.
“We’re honored to be a part of this event. It’s just awesome and so well organized,” said vonBerg. “Our program aligns closely with what United Spinal is trying to achieve, that is to get kids off the sidelines and to show them that they have options to participate in sports.”
During her keynote address, U.S. Paralympian and Ms. Wheelchair New Jersey 2013 Margaret ‘Maggie’ Redden who contracted polio at a young age in her homeland of India, reiterated the message of this year’s KSS: with determination and perseverance––anything is possible.
“Paralysis hasn’t stopped me from achieving,” Redden said.
And United Spinal is hopeful that KSS opens the first door to a successful future for many of these youngsters.
United Spinal sends our sincere thanks to Comcast-Spectacor, the Philadelphia-based sports and entertainment firm for providing the use of the Wells Fargo Center for our Kids Sports Spectacular.
We also would like to thank all volunteers, instructors, and partners for making KSS a huge success!
Special thanks to MossRehab; Einstein Healthcare Network; Bayada Home Health Care; Permobil; Archer & Greiner, P.C.; Campbell’s Soup; TOPSoccer of Marlton, NJ; NJ Paralympic Sports Club; Karate of South Jersey.