James McCorkle has used a wheelchair for most of his six years of life, and, for much of that time, he has been a client at the School of Health Professions’ PhysZOU clinic. That’s where he met physical therapy student Mark Weleaga, who quickly realized that McCorkle needed to improve his wheelchair skills.
“During my first session with James, we had to encourage him a lot to get him to do different wheelchair skills and play games,” Weleaga says. So, for help, he went straight to the top — Mizzou’s wheelchair basketball team. “I was hoping to make therapy fun.”
Enter J-School student and wheelchair basketball player Zach Steger. When Weleaga approached him about meeting McCorkle during his PhysZOU therapy sessions, Steger was all in. “I enjoy hanging out with him every Monday,” Steger says. He gives McCorkle wheelchair-handling tips, and they pace through agility drills similar to what Steger does at team practices. “Things we had to beg James to do previously, he was showing off the first time that Zach came,” Weleaga says.
Steger knows the importance of mentors. “Even when I’m graduated, I really want to keep up with James,” he says. “Just to make sure he’s doing well and see where he’s going.”
For a closer look at James and Zach’s relationship, check out the video below.
This story was originally published in the Fall 2020 issue of MIZZOU alumni magazine.