Jason Brown suffered a stroke in 2013. Jodi Chainchill has been visually impaired since birth. Jimmy Crews suffered a traumatic brain injury after a car accident.
While they all have different disabilities, they all share the love of being outdoors and trying new activities.
Growing up in South Florida where fun in the sun fosters the love of plenty of recreational opportunities throughout the year, more than 300 disabled participants like Brown, Chainchill and Crews got a chance to experience and demonstrate a wide range of recreational activities including water skiing, sailing and scuba diving for the day.
Many of which they never thought they would ever get to do.
With National Adaptive Sports Month being observed in April, the 3rd Annual Adaptive Sports and Recreation Expo couldn’t have come at a better time. Wheelchair basketball, hand cycling demonstrations, disc golf, fishing and a host of other sports and activities were on deck for anyone who wanted who wanted to experience it at Markham Park in Sunrise Florida recently.
The afternoon expo, complete with resources designed to provide adaptive equipment for a variety of sports, activities and lifestyle management, was hosted by Memorial Regional Hospital South in Hollywood.
“We strongly believe in expanding our reach to the community and serving the adaptive population being the premier rehabilitation institute that we represent,” said Meryl Comiter, Assistant Administrator for Memorial Regional Hospital South. “Our motto is ‘Go Beyond’ for that reason. It is important to provide access to the many options available in recreation and fitness. Each year, we bring the right equipment with the right personnel to make it happen and then we offer free opportunities throughout the year so that the disabled community can take their fitness and recreational passion to the next level.”
For 33-year-old Jason Brown, who suffered a stroke nearly four years ago, it was a chance of a lifetime to get to scuba dive and sail.
“He has been talking about coming to this for weeks now,” said his mother Yvette Johnson. I am so proud of my baby and can’t thank the hospital enough for making this available to him. He has always loved the water and until today, I never thought I would get to see him do something so enjoyable to him.”
For Chainchill, the experience of sailing was one she never imagined she would get to do.
“I am always searching for something, so when the Lighthouse for the Blind told me about this event, I couldn’t wait to come and try sailing and scuba diving. It’s an unexplainable feeling.”
For Heather Stossel, a former softball player who also loves to ride horses and was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 18 years ago, this was a chance to do something physically challenging. She chose to participate in the adaptive water skiing.
“This was truly a great experience for me because I love to be outdoors and stay active,” she said. “Where else could I have been able to water ski. Thank you so much for making it happen.”
Then there were individuals like Jimmy Crews who experienced a traumatic brain injury after a car accident when he was only 18. Today at 26, he has hand cycled nearly 50 marathons across the nation, gone to school to get a degree and obtained a real estate license.
“This accident taught me that there are no excuses,” he said. “I want to motivate people which is why I bring my bike and help demonstrate how great these hand cycles are. I come to show support and because I believe in inspiring others to do what they love to do outdoors.”
For nonprofits like Ann’s Angels Adaptive Waterski Foundation and Youth Environmental Alliance, it is mission to bring new life to those who are challenged by a disability.
“It doesn’t matter what you have, but this gives people a chance to recreate for life,” said John Lipscomb, CEO of the Ann’s Angels based in Winter Haven, who has partnered before with the Adaptive Sports and Recreation Program and Memorial Regional Hospital South.
For Kristen Ross of the Youth Environmental Alliance, the reward is in the expression of joy in the faces of adults and children to be able to sail.
“You can’t imagine what it is like for someone who has limited mobility or who is visually impaired to be able to sail when they have never been able to try it,” said Kristen Ross of Youth Environmental Alliance based locally. “It provides such a sense of freedom. The Adaptive Sports and Recreation Expo of this kind provides that access that links people with the activities.”
To Learn More:
Adaptive Sports and Recreation Program
Memorial Rehabilitation Institute at Memorial Regional Hospital South
3600 Washington Street
Hollywood, FL 33021
Tel: 954-518- 5573