When Max Rohn wheeled off the court at the end of his second wheelchair basketball game of the day, his hands were blackened from the wheels and he was sweating and worn out.
But he had a great time.
A retired Navy third class petty officer, Rohn lost part of his right leg in combat and spent time at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., before coming to the area to attend Penn State.
He and other members of the Penn State Ability Athletics team played two exhibition games in State College Area High School’s North Building gymnasium Sunday as part as the first Hoops for Hope event. The Best Buddies Club with co-chairwomen Jenny Lee and Beth Keim organized the event, designed to raise awareness and money for Wounded Warriors.
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Rohn said it’s easy to relate to other wounded soldiers because they know what it’s like to be injured in combat and spend time at a military hospital.
“It’s really, really easy to bond with other people that were at the hospital because you know exactly what it was like,” he said. “You share pretty much all the same experiences.”
Neither Lee nor Keim knew what to expect going into the inaugural event. They set a goal of raising $5,000 through donations, food sales and a raffle, but they surpassed that goal easily.
The group was able to present injured soldier and State High graduate Adam Hartswick with a check for $7,250.
Hartswick, who lost his legs above the knees and his right index finger to an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan, attended the event and threw the ball up for the tip at the start of both games.
The first game pitted the Ability Athletics team against the Penn State Adaptive Outreach Club, and the Ability Athletics team played a group of State College Area School District faculty in the second game.
Hartswick said the support of the people who came out for the day was great, and it was a good chance to spend time with other people who were injured in combat.
“It’s nice to know that I’m not alone in this situation, and it’s comforting to see the people who are in my situation bring me into the fold in a sense,” he said. “They’re here for me.”
And the organizers considered the event a big success.
Keim praised the community response and said attendance on game day was impressive.
“The community support has been fabulous, whether it’s the school community or the State College community,” she said. “It has just been an outpouring of support.”