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U.S. Paralympians Call Arlington Home

Paralympians also help others

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Two U.S. Paralymplic basketball players, one man, one woman, call Arlington home. (Published Tuesday, May 29, 2012)

    Two Arlington residents are representing the United States in the Paralympics.

    Jason Nelms is one of 12 representing the U.S. on the men's Paralympic team this August, and Darlene Hunter is one of the 12 players on the women's team. Both have been wheelchair users since childhood accidents.

    He is competing in his third Paralympics, while this summer will be Hunter's first. The couple met in Michigan more than a decade ago.

    "I mean, it's been a long road," said Nelms, a five-time All-American at the University of Texas at Arlington. "We met in '99, and then I came to UTA and she went to Arizona."

    Hunter started playing basketball in college after she went to the University of Arizona on a track scholarship and caught the eyes of basketball coaches. But she said she has no regrets about ditching track.

    "Nope, no regrets -- I'm going to the Paralympics. What can you regret?" she said.

    "We've seen so many countries just because of wheelchair basketball taking us so many different places," Nelms said.

    "I have learned more and -- just like Jay -- gained more friends and family than I could have ever asked for had I been an able-bodied person," Hunter said.

    She said she attributes her earning a doctorate to doors opened by wheelchair basketball.

    Their love for the game doesn't stop on the basketball court. Hunter and Helms both volunteer with wheelchair youth in Dallas-Fort Worth. Hunter is an assistant coach for the Dallas Junior Wheelchair Mavs.

    "We have 50 kids in our program, and it's the best thing that they have going on right now," she said. "They go and they talk to their friends at school about it and they get to pass the word on. Their parents have said how much their self-esteem has changed."

    Doug Garner, who has known Hunter and Nelms for years, is also involved with the Dallas-Fort Worth wheelchair athletics community and is UTA's assistant director of campus recreation.

    "The coolest thing about Darlene and Jason is, they don't go out and sell themselves," he said. "There's not a 'Jason Nelms brand' or a 'Dr. Darlene Hunter brand.' They just love basketball, and they love to help other people enjoy sports."

    Hunter said it is about what sports do for the people who play them.

    "It's not just about the physical part of it," she said. "It's the social, emotional -- it's so people can see people like themselves competing at a high level."