As a teenager, Steve Draft-Peppin played wheelchair tennis at Riverview Athletic Club in Grand Rapids. And he was pretty good, finishing at or near the top in his singles and doubles divisions in 1992.
But a few years later, Steve left wheelchair tennis behind in favor of other pursuits. Then there was college and career and family. He earned a law degree in 2012.
When he moved from Muskegon to Grand Rapids late last year, Steve figured it might be a good time to re-enter the sport.
“I showed up in February to practice in my own wheelchair. I didn’t yet have a sports chair. But Mary Free Bed set me up with a loaner chair and instruction,” says Steve, who is now 36 years old. “It’s been great. I couldn’t ask for a better set of coaches and teammates.”
Steve, who was born with spina-bifida, will participate in the Midwest Wheelchair Tennis Championships July 10-12 in Grand Rapids. Hosted by Mary Free Bed’s Wheelchair and Adaptive Sports Program, the tournament is expected to attract up to 80 players. Some of them will come from as far away as Australia and Japan.
In his first tournament this year, which took place June 6-7 in Fort Wayne, Steve took second in his doubles division.
“I’m doing this to have a good time, but I also hope to be competitive and win some matches,” he says.
He also plans to participate in a Mary Free Bed Wheelchair and Adaptive Sports water ski clinic later this summer and is looking for other adaptive sports opportunities, too.
“I’ve been telling people it’s just amazing what Mary Free Bed provides,” he says.