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"When Charlotte comes home, she has a huge smile on her face and she can’t stop talking about her achievement"

Charlotte - CURB
Charlotte - CURB Charlotte, 18 years, is a member of CURB (Camden United Resilience Basketball).

There’s no missing the huge smile that lights up Charlotte’s face when you ask her about basketball. The 18-year-old Sydney Kings fan talks about the sport all the time and is ‘obsessed with Michael Jordan.’ But to Charlotte’s mum, Francine, seeing her daughter play basketball means so much more.

“Charlotte was born with three holes in her heart,” Francine said. “She had to be tube-fed and had her heart repaired when she was six – Charlotte is in The Zipper Club,” a reference to the scar left by open-heart surgery.

Playing sports doesn’t come as easily to Charlotte as other young people. The teenager has low muscle development which affects her speech and movement, and she gets tired more easily. But her interest in playing sport kicked off when she came across the CURB program.

CURB (Camden United Resilience Basketball) is a free program open to all young people aged 10-18. The partnership between the Y NSW and Camden Council gives basketball novices and enthusiasts professional basketball coaching, and opportunities to play as a team and socialise.

“Functional Foundations took a group of young people out to CURB at the Y, which is amazing. Charlotte loved it and wanted to go back and we decided to stay connected,” Francine said.

“She had been having a rough year at school, so it was good for her to have something to look forward to. Young people with disabilities don’t always get accepted. Basketball lets Charlotte interact with other young people. It’s good for the other kids to be able to interact with Charlotte and some of the young kids have been incredibly good for her.”

Charlotte’s smile is just as broad when she’s asked about the friends she’s made at CURB - “Jarrod is a good friend, we like to shoot hoops and hang out.” The pair play air hockey in the social space and Charlotte likes it when they have afternoon tea and get to eat the free snacks.

Her transformation is evident to the StreetGym team at the Y. The once quiet, nervous teen who held onto the basketball and refused to pass it to her teammates, is now soaring with confidence on and off the court.

“Charlotte is now able to pass the basketball very quickly, shooting through the hoop and scoring for her team,” said Mark Jackson from Y Space Camden. “Charlotte has also become the life of the party, always taking the time to say hello to everyone and encouraging her teammates with her infectious, positive attitude. Charlotte is a true Street Gym hero!”

Charlotte is looking forward to playing more basketball this year, catching up with her friends and hopes to go watch the Sydney Kings play. She didn’t hesitate when asked to name her biggest highlights so far.

“When I got a slam dunk,” Charlotte said. “The hoop wasn’t high but I got it and everyone cheered. I was excited. I also shot two goals in one game once. It was good meeting lots of new people and learning to pass the ball.”

Big sister Mackenzie (22) chips in to say that Charlotte practices a lot on their court at home, and describes the benefits of basketball as ‘amazing to see.’

“When Charlotte comes home, she has a huge smile on her face and she can’t stop talking about her achievements,” said Mackenzie. “She doesn’t get many opportunities to excel. In basketball, she gets awards – she was named best team player last year – and she’s recognised for her hard work. Basketball has given her hope in something she can achieve on her own and the chance to meet more people. She has so much more confidence now.”

Francine acknowledges CURB has given her daughter opportunities to build independence, social skills and confidence that she may not have otherwise had.

“She’s happier. And she finds it easier to talk to people and make friends now. The social and mental health benefits are real. I just want Charlotte to be happy and accepted, like the rest of us. And getting kids off social media – the more of that, the better,” Francine said.

“Charlotte doesn’t get to hang out with a lot of kids who aren’t special needs, so it is so nice to see her treated just like anyone else. Kids with disability don’t always get that. It’s something a lot of people take for granted – it’s precious. To see Charlotte out playing basketball with friends in the sun – it’s just so happy and normal.”

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