Sep 26, 2013
Our hometown spotlight focuses on a man who brought a much needed team to the area.
About a quarter-century ago, Mike Atkins made a mistake. Since then, he has spent nearly every moment making things better for people with serious injuries and disabilities.
As the founder of Triangle Thunder, one of the only wheelchair basketball teams in Eastern North Carolina, Atkins developed a way for people to share their experiences through sport, doing so on the basketball court.
"It's been a huge part of my life and the support network," said Kevin Bailey, a player on the team.
"This is an outlet, adaptive sports for people who are hurt or were born with a disability,” Atkins said of the team he started in 1992. “It is something that is needed."
Atkins wouldn't be as involved without making a mistake in the late 1980’s though. One night, after a few too many drinks, he wrecked his car.
"It was a stupid mistake. I knew better,” Atkins recalled “You've been drinking and you get behind a wheel of a car. What do you expect to happen?"
Left paralyzed from the waist down, Atkins admits to moments of sadness and regret.
"Everyone has that moment where they ask ‘why me?’” Atkins said. “’What did I do to deserve this? What am I going to do now?’"
Atkins’ answer? Do something.
Two decades ago, he saw a need and started this team.
"It was, ‘I screwed up and I'm not going to screw that up again.’”, Bailey said. “I'm going to move forward and move on.”
Twenty-one years later, Triangle Thunder is rolling – and welcoming new players all the time.
"When you get hurt, things change,” said Bailey. “Playing basketball is a reminder to me, it's the same sport I played before. There's a connection with the past. I don't feel disabled for that period of time."
The sport and the team alike serve as reminders to some that good things can still come from poor decisions.
"I keep doing it because I like living, I like breathing,” Atkins said. “It's not just staying positive to me. It's just, this is my life."