The Wheelchair Basketball Benefit is held each year to raise funds for the Zech DeVits Memorial Equipment Fund. Proceeds from the game and accompanying silent auction are matched by the NHTI Student Senate to purchase assistive technology for students with disabilities. The event is organized collaboratively by Disabilities Services, the Disabilities Advisory Board, Student Life, NHTI Student Organizations, (such as the Student Senate, Alternative Spring Break Club, Human Service Club, Social Science Club and others) with our partners, Granite State Independent Living and the NH Spinal Cord Injury Association.
The first wheelchair benefit evolved as part of an education course project, in which students raised funds to help refurbish Zech DeVits' wheelchair-accessible van. Zech DeVits, for whom the event is named, died at 22 in 2005, just weeks before graduating from NHTI with an Associates degree in Addiction Counseling. Born with gigantism, a rare genetic condition, and skeletal dysplasia, Zech had used a wheelchair since age six. Despite his towering 7'8" frame and large features, Zech quickly became a beloved role model on campus.
The campus continues to hold the event in his memory, raising money to help other students with disabilities purchase assistive technology. In previous years, the Wheelchair Basketball Benefit raised $2,000. The Zech DeVits Memorial Equipment Fund has provided digital recorders, and software for speech recognition, keyboarding and reading, talking book players, and talking dictionaries.
The Capital Wheelers (NHTI students with volunteers from Granite State Independent Living and the NH Spinal Cord Injury Association) face off against their arch-rivals the All Stars (NHTI faculty, administrators and staff) prior to the NHTI Men's and Women's basketball games. A silent auction, raffle and half-time show round out the event. In 2010 a film presentation and Wheelchair Open Gym were added.
Dr. Beverly Boggess, Coordinator of Disabilities Services at NHTI, observed, “After Zech's death, the Disabilities Advisory Board, NHTI organizations, and Granite State Independent Living partnered to continue the benefit annually in remembrance of Zech's positive impact and generous nature.” Charles Lloyd, Director of Student Life, knew Zech as one of his Alternative Spring Break Club volunteers. “Zech touched so many lives in a positive way, and it is for this reason that he has left such a lasting legacy at NHTI.”
All qualified NHTI students with documented disabilities are encouraged to apply for assistive technology through the Zech DeVits Memorial Equipment Fund.