Wheelchair basketball player Darlene Hunter teaches girls that they are not defined by their disabilities

by Gefen-Kusin Kline, Special Contributor | June 13, 2019

When she was four years old, Darlene Hunter sustained a life-changing spinal cord injury that landed her permanently in a wheelchair and limited her mobility forever. But Hunter doesn’t give up. At just seven years old, she began competing in track events, and at 34, she won a gold medal in wheelchair basketball at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio.

Hunter didn’t stop there. She’s shifted from player to coach of the Dallas-based Lady Mavericks Wheelchair Basketball team. She encourages her players to advocate for themselves and improve the mobility, health and well-being of women and girls with disabilities.

In 2017, Toyota recognized her as an Everyday Hero at the ESPNW Women + Sports Summit for her work with the Lady Mavericks. The program honors women who work to promote sports for girls and women in their local communities.

Toyota has developed direct relationships with adaptive athletes like Hunter through a long partnership with the International Paralympic Committee and the companies that provide the tools that power their success. This coincides with the company’s 2014 formation of the Toyota Mobility Foundation, an organization dedicated to ensuring that everyone regardless of class, disability or location can experience mobility and do so with ease.

“Mobility should not be limited by geography, income or availability,” said Toyota Mobility Foundation Board Chair Akio Toyoda. “It should be safe, efficient and enjoyable and it should be economically and environmentally sustainable. The success of our mission over the next century will only be ensured if increased mobility is in harmony with changing infrastructure and patterns of urbanization.”

Toyota recently also expanded its support of Paralympic athletes by announcing a partnership with the National Wheelchair Basketball Association as the athletes work toward the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

“Toyota is invested in the athletes and wants to see each person reach their personal goals through their ‘mobility for all’ initiative,” said Hunter. “I am so excited to see what this new partnership will bring for our athletes at the grassroots level.”

Toyota is dedicated to making an impact and bringing awareness to Paralympic sports while bringing their message of “mobility for all” to new audiences. And that’s music to Hunter’s ears.

“The most rewarding part of my work is getting new people involved in sports,” she said. “It totally changes their lives and their attitudes. It allows them to see past their disabilities and all the things they can’t do to see all the things they can do. I want to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to play sports, and that’s why I continue to push to be a leader. I want everyone to be able to reach their full potential and passion.”

This summer, Toyota is sponsoring the USA Men’s Senior National Team’s Wheelchair Basketball Showdown on Saturday, June 22, at the Prosper High School Gym. There are two featured games: the first, at 10 a.m. Central, against Japan, and the second against the Spanish National Team at 1 p.m. Central. Follow 2019 Toyota USA Men’s Wheelchair Basketball Showdown news on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

To learn more about the National Wheelchair Basketball Association, visit nwba.org. You can explore all the ways that the Toyota Mobility Foundation is expanding mobility for all across the globe at toyotamobilityfoundation.org.

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