Many people who live in West Michigan have heard of Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital and know us for our leading rehabilitation and post-acute care services. But did you know that we have a full-service Wheelchair & Adaptive Sports Department at Mary Free Bed? It’s especially timely as we enter our tournament season this fall, with two exciting adaptive sports tournamentsThunderfest Quad Ruby Tournament Oct. 6-7, and the 4th Annual Mary Free Bed Basketball Invitational Dec. 1-2. We encourage you to join us for these events!

What is the Wheelchair & Adaptive Sports Department?

Mary Free Bed’s Wheelchair & Adaptive Sports program offers a wide variety of classes, clinics, teams, events and home tournaments designed for patients and community members with limited mobility and other physical impairments. Our offerings include:

  • Classes like adaptive swimming lessons and yoga (five total)
  • Clinics ranging from adaptive scuba diving, to downhill skiing, to zip lining (11 total)
  • Events like Bikes for the Rest of Us and a Jr. Wheelchair Sports Camp (five total)
  • Teams like our quad rugby and wheelchair basketball teams (13 total)
  • Tournaments like our upcoming quad rugby and adult wheelchair basketball tournaments (six total)

Why is it important?

As our friends understand at the West Michigan Sports Commission (also a bronze sponsor for our department), participating in sports and other recreation programs isn’t just good for physical healing – there are social and psychological advantages to incorporating athletic and leisure activities into your life, as well. Our participants feel the exhilaration that comes at the height of physical competition, or experience the solitude and stillness that comes from challenging your body and mind. Mary Free Bed’s Wheelchair & Adaptive Sports programs and recreation events help people with limited mobility and physical impairments find the rush they’re looking for.

What is Quad Rugby?

Quad Rugby is not for the faint of heart.  It’s fast, highly aggressive and involves chair-to-chair contact.  The sport is as physical and extreme as conventional rugby. Members of the co-ed Grand Rapids Thunder quad rugby team use specialized equipment to engage in competitive play.  This sport is only available for individuals with quadriplegia (disability causing impairment in both lower and upper extremities).   Athletes play with heavy-duty sport chairs on a basketball court.

Grand Rapids has been home to the Thunder quad rugby team since 2010. Weekly practices are Wednesday nights, 7 to 9:30 p.m. September through March at the Mary Free Bed YMCA, 5500 Burton St. SE, Grand Rapids. Throughout the season, the team travels across the country to compete in weekend tournaments. Every fall the Thunder also hosts a home tournament, “Thunderfest.”

7th Annual Thunderfest

What: Six-team round robin quad rugby tournament

Who: Our own Grand Rapids Thunder along with five other teams from the Midwest and Canada

When: Saturday, Oct. 6, 9-4:30 and Sunday, Oct.7, 9-1:30

Where: MSA Fieldhouse - 5435 28th St. Court SE, Grand Rapids

Admission: Free

What is Wheelchair Basketball?

Only a few rules vary between wheelchair basketball and traditional basketball. Players get two pushes and then must dribble or pass to eliminate a traveling violation. A player’s chair is considered a part of his or her body. It is considered a foul for a player to ram his or her chair into another player’s chair. Everything else is the same, including the height of the basket (except in prep-level play, which uses a youth-size basketball and an 8’6” hoop).  We have two adult divisions: the DI Mary Free Bed Pacers (formally the Grand Rapids Pacers), an established team for the past 30 years, and the DIII Mary Free Bed Rollin Drive, who registered as a team with the NWBA in 2016. These teams also practice weekly at their home gym in the Mary Free Bed YMCA.  Their home tournament is the Mary Free Bed Invitational.

4th Annual Mary Free Bed Invitational

What:  National Wheelchair Basketball Association-sanctioned wheelchair basketball tournament

Who:  Mary Free Bed Pacers and Mary Free Bed Rollin Drive with other teams from across the United States and Canada in the NWBA DI, DII and DIII Divisions

When:  Saturday Dec. 1 and Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018

Where: Mary Free Bed YMCA 5500 Burton St. SE, Grand Rapids

Admission: Free


We encourage you to stay in touch with Mary Free Bed!

CONNECT by liking our Mary Free Bed Wheelchair & Adaptive Sports Facebook Page

MOVE by signing up for our programs, volunteering or donating!!

INSPIRE others in the community to do the same!



Christy VanHaver, C.T.R.S.
Guest Blogger
Christy VanHaver is sports coordinator in the Wheelchair and Adaptive Sports Department at Mary Free Bed.

Latest Entries

The West Michigan Sports Commission (WMSC) is partnering with Celebration Cinema to bring a new sport to West Michigan – and there’s a good chance you know very little about it.

As we prepare for 2020, I’d like to take a moment to review 2019 – it was another great year for youth and amateur sports in West Michigan!