A Sunday poker tournament will offer the chance for a high stakes win in support of a local man who exemplifies the spirit of beating the odds.
Despite being disabled his entire life, 34-year-old Dustin Ferreira spent much of his first three decades as a serious athlete, excelling in wheelchair basketball and shattering the expectations of his able-bodied contenders.
Battling a brittle bone disease called osteogenesis imperfecta, Ferreira was able to drive his own vehicle, attended college on a basketball scholarship and played his favorite sport at the professional level for a dozen years.
Part of a group who worked to bring the Rogue Valley Scorpion Wheelchair Basketball Team to the valley, Ferreira, otherwise known as "No. 33," said he always focused on living his life without letting his disability affect what he wanted to do.
“Injuries have always been a part of my life. I’m 34 years old and have broken over 300 bones and had 50-plus surgeries in my life. But I've always persevered,” said the Massachusetts native.
That changed April 3 when he was struck by a negligent driver in a crosswalk near Hawthorne Park and Tinseltown while crossing the road in his wheelchair.
“After the accident, and not just because of the severity of the accident but also because of my condition, everything was different for me. I had over 28 breaks and fractures,” he said.
“I had to retire from sports for good. I’m still recovering from the accident. It’s been devastating.”
Now focusing on day-to-day life, pain management and trying to regain basic functionality, Ferreira is trying to replace his wheelchair, which was destroyed when he was hit by the truck in April, and to obtain a wheelchair-accessible van in order to regain some small level of independence.
Prior to the accident, Ferreira was adept at folding his own wheelchair up and tossing it in the back of his car. Simply existing without pain is his current reality, he noted.
While the accident took away his ability to play sports, Ferreira is determined to regain some independence.
The goal of the poker tournament is to raise $20,000 — $14,000 for a wheelchair-accessible van and the remainder for a power wheelchair and related costs.
“I went from being an athlete and able to take care of myself pretty well to, now, really struggling to get in and out of a car or truck by myself. I use a power wheelchair nowadays — I used to use a manual. So being able to get my power wheelchair in a van and take it places is something I have to figure out,” he said.
“I used to be able to get into a car or truck without any help. I could take apart my wheelchair and toss in the back seat. I was always able to live a full life despite my disability. I’m just really hoping to be able to get some of that back.”
Interested poker players will pay $20 for their first two hours of play. Local businesses can sign up to sponsor an employee for a $200 donation. More than a half-dozen local businesses are sponsoring the tournament and the Southern Oregon Poker Club is donating the event space.
Sunday’s event kicks off at 2 p.m. at the poker club, behind Lowe’s at 502 Excel Drive, Suite 103. To reserve a spot, call Ferreira at 408-227-2250.
To check out Ferreira’s GoFundMe page and donate toward his wheelchair and van, see www.gofundme.com/Dollars4Dustin. His Facebook page is at www.facebook.com/ DustinStrong2017.
— Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. Email her at email@example.com.