Even though March Madness is over, basketball is still in the spotlight in Portland, Oregon. Last night at the University of Portland, the men’s and women’s basketball team members played using wheelchairs against the Portland Wheel Blazers of Oregon Disability Sports. The students were joined by members of the Portland Thorns FC women’s soccer team and the event was held to help raise awareness and money in the fight against Friedreich’s ataxia, a rare, degenerative neuromuscular disorder.
This is the second year for the SamJam event, a fundraiser started by former athlete Sam Bridgman who was diagnosed with the rare disease at age 15 and has had to use a wheelchair since he was 18. The first SamJam took place in November of 2011 and raised $7,000 and drew a crowd of over 500 people. This year, Bridgman hopes to reach $8,000 but says the main goal is to raise awareness about Friedreich’s ataxia.
“This event is more about raising awareness for FA and having a good time rather than raising a lot of money,” Bridgman told the Oregon Live web site.
Bridgman is a senior finance major at the University of Portland and is scheduled to graduate in May. Prior to being diagnosed with FA, Bridgman was an avid baseball and basketball player as well as downhill skier and though the disease has taken away his ability to walk it hasn’t deterred his dream of graduating or doing what he can to help raise money and awareness for this disease that to date has no treatment or cure.