Disabled Girl Got Serious Game: Zarreia Williams Plays Basketball with Lady Gamecocks’ Head Coach Dawn Staley

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As a proud disabled South Carolinian, I could not contain my excitement when I heard about Zarreia Williams’ 1-on-1 game with Dawn Staley, Head Coach of University of South Carolina’s Women’s Basketball program.  To see a disabled Black girl play a game of basketball against one of her idols had to be featured on the blog.

Who Is Zarreia?  A Disabled Teen Living Fearlessly With Goltz Syndrome

Zarreia is a 15 years old teenager from Orangeburg, SC, and she was born with a rare genetic condition called Goltz Syndrome.  Goltz Syndrome (better known as Focal Dermal Hypoplasia (FDH)) is a skin disorder that can also affect bone and eye development.  90 percent of persons with Goltz Syndrome are female.

Due to Goltz, Zarraia has vision in her left eye, a Cleft Palate, missing toes, and has smaller organs on the right side of her body.  She has endured many surgeries in her 15 years, but her family has remained adamant in ensuring that Zarreia is able to live out her dreams and attend school.

Shooting Hoops with Her Idol:  Zarreia Meets Dawn Staley

Zarreia is a huge USC Gamecocks fan, and had challenged Dawn Staley to a basketball game.  Staley, a basketball hall of famer, three-time Olympian, and headed USC Women’s Basketball in its first NCAA Final Four playoffs this year, had welcomed many challenges in her life on and off the court, and gladly accepted Zarreia’s request for a game.  It was not surprising to me that Staley would accept the invitation to play a game with Zarreia; she is known for being an active member in the community by her fundraisers and charity work.

635677473309194634-Still0520-00001Coach Staley promised to fulfill Zarreia’s wish after the Final Four playoffs, and she remained true to her word.  Zarreia and Coach Staley played at the Carolina Coliseum practice gym, and boy, was it a heck of a game.  There was a lot of trash-talking done by Zarreia, and she showed Coach Staley that she definitely had game, so much game that she beat Staley, 10-8.  Staley was impressed by the level of skills and strength Zarreia showed while playing, and had invited her to the Lady Gamecocks’ practices and a seat on the bench at games once the season starts in the fall.

Final Thoughts

Zarreia embodies why I created RYV! – the lives and accomplishments of disabled girls of color has to be widely shared.  Zarreia is one of many disabled Black girls and women in the Palmetto State who has overcome the odds by living fearlessly each and every day.  In sharing her story, I hope it encourages other disabled girls living with rare disorders like Goltz that they are not just defined by their disability – they possess the power to redefine who they are as disabled girls of color that goes beyond the limiting bounds that society creates.  I do not think this is the last time we will see Zarreia in the news, and I hope to read more of her as she matures into a lovely young woman.

(Featured headlining images:  Courtesy of StockSnap.oi & WLTX News 19.)

About Vilissa Thompson, LMSW

Vilissa is the Founder & CEO of Ramp Your Voice!, an organization she created to establish herself as a Disability Rights Consultant & Advocate. Ramp Your Voice! is a prime example of how macro-minded Vilissa truly is, and her determination to leave a giant "tire track mark" on the world.

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