"Games Without Barriers:” JCU Gladiators Support Italian Paralympic Sports
“We are all strangely normal” was the theme of “Giochi senza barriere” “(Games Without Barriers,”) a fundraising event that saw the participation of a delegation of JCU Gladiator athletes in Rome’s Stadio dei Marmi sports arena on June 12.
Now in its ninth edition, GSB is organized by Art4Sport Onlus, an association dedicated to promoting Paralympic sports. JCU student and Paralympic fencing champion Bebe Vio and her family founded the non-profit organization to promote sports as therapy for child amputees while breaking down the barriers of prejudice.
JCU lined up some Gladiators among, staff, faculty, and student-athletes, accompanied by Art4Sport Onlus team members. Based on the 1951 Disney animated film Alice in Wonderland, this year’s edition of the games was called “Wondermad.” Each of the eight participating teams represented a different city and a character from the movie. Each team also featured three special guests from the Italian sports and entertainment world. Dressed up as Alice in Wonderland mad hatters, caterpillars, cards, and much more, the JCU team gave its all in the games, which ranged from volleyball to obstacle courses, taking home an excellent third place.
The JCU team represented New York, and was joined by Frank Matano, an Italian comic actor and YouTuber, Stefania Spampinato, an Italian actress known for her role in the TV series Grey’s Anatomy, and Oney Tapia, an Italian Paralympic athlete specialized in the shot put and discus throw.
JCU Computer Science professor and basketball enthusiast Khaison Duong participated in the games along with his seven-year-old son Lawrence. “Participating with Lawrence was a very rewarding experience because it gave us a chance to genuinely understand the idea of ‘inclusion.’ It was nice to be able to do activities all together regardless of one’s physical conditions. It also let us take a look into what it is like for people who live with disabilities, join forces toward the common goal of tearing down the wall of prejudice that surrounds them,” said Prof. Duong.
“It was a great honor for JCU to participate in Games Without Barriers. Not only was the experience fun, it was a fundamental life-lesson for all of our Gladiators. Thank you to Art4Spport Onlus and Bebe Vio for inviting us to this sensational event!” said JCU Athletics Coordinator Marco Iorio.