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Released June 12, 2003

SOUTHERN MISS GC TO UNVEIL 'TENNIS WHEELCHAIRS' FOR DISABLED

LONG BEACH -- The University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast's Toy Library Center will unveil and demonstrate its new "Tennis Wheelchairs" at 10 a.m. on June 28 at the tennis courts on the Long Beach campus.

The specially adapted wheelchairs allow people with disabilities to play tennis without ever leaving their seats.

"It will be wonderful to look out of the windows at TLC and watch children playing wheelchair tennis on the tennis courts at Southern Miss Gulf Coast," said Dr. Sara Jackson, director of TLC.

"Wheelchairs on tennis courts will be a common occurrence in South Mississippi now that TLC has been given a grant to purchase four new specially designed tennis wheelchairs."

The Toy Library Center purchased four of the tennis wheelchairs from Eagle Sportschairs Inc. through a $35,434 "Recreation Unlimited" grant from the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services. A specially adapted golf cart for people with disabilities called the "Model Tee" was purchased previously with funds from the same grant. The grant has allowed Southern MissGC to offer the only special needs services of their kind in the southeastern region of the United States.

The new tennis wheelchairs will be free for those with disabilities.

World class wheelchair sports athlete, Josh Sharpe, a Mississippi native, will be on hand at the event to demonstrate the specially adapted wheelchair and the sport of Wheelchair Tennis.

Sharpe, who now makes his home in Navarre, Florida, suffered a spinal cord injury in 1994 as a result of a motor vehicle accident, which rendered him a paraplegic. Shortly after his paralysis, Sharpe became involved in wheelchair sports and other organizations that advocate for the disabled. He participates in several wheelchair sports including, wheelchair tennis, hand cycling, triathlons, kayaking, rock climbing, alpine and Nordic skiing and scuba diving.

Last year, Sharpe placed sixth in the Sadler Midnight Sun Ultra Challenge - a 6-day, 267 mile wheelchair and hand cycle race from Fairbanks to Anchorage, Alaska. The Sadler Midnight Sun Ultra Challenge is billed as the longest wheelchair race in the world.

For more information about the Southern MissGC Toy Library and Technology Learning Center, the Tennis Wheelchairs or the "Recreation Unlimited" Program, contact Dr. Sara Jackson at (228) 867-2636.

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April 20, 2004 4:09 PM

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