Adapted sports clinic in Cedar Rapids provides opportunities to all

Annual event helps people with disabilities try new sport, discover new hobby

Published: March 30 2014 | 12:10 pm - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 10:20 am in

Racing wheels whir around a track, the sound of a basketball dribble echoes through the air, and the thud of an arrow hitting its target all surround the participants of the seventh annual Adapted Sports Clinic. The gym is filled with people, and seems like an average sports camp, with one difference: all sports being played were slightly modified for people with physical disabilities.

While the adapted sports clinic was initially created to provide sports opportunities to people with physical handicaps, it has transformed into an opportunity for the community to understand more living with physical disabilities as well.

"Sometimes people [who are handicapped,] don't get up and do everything we do, but this shows they can," said Amber West, a 10-year-old at the event. "Like people that aren't in wheelchairs can get up and play basketball, and this shows we can do this together."

Vern Willey, the speaker at the event, had a biking accident in 1999 which injured the middle half of his back, leaving him unable to walk. And within with six months, Willey was in a wheelchair skiing.

"I have this saying of the more you do the more you can, and the less you can do the less you can," the 64-year-old said, adding he believes the clinic offers all participants the opportunity to stay active. "It's good for everyone to learn, not only people with disabilities but also able-bodied people, that you can do [an activity] and maybe it's harder than you thought it was, but it's possible."

Physical therapists were also a large part of the event Saturday at the Kirkwood Recreation Center, 6301 Kirkwood Blvd. SW. Megan Andresen, a physical therapist at St. Luke's hospital and one of the coordinators for the event, said there while there have been improvements, there need to be more options for people with physical handicaps.

"That was also a complaint, [after participating in the clinic], four years ago, people were asking where can we do this great activity [on a weekly basis with no equipment]," she said. "Today there are 20 different [exercise] bikes for people that want to buy them. It's not like you or I being able to go out and get any bike we want, it's not as accessible to these people that may have to see them online instead."

Adapted sports clinics and teams have been on the rise over the past few years, and Jayden Barrett, director of Sports Ability, a non-profit that works to bring those opportunities to eastern Iowa, said the camps and teams offer opportunities to everyone participating.

"There's a lot of little kids here, and I think they're realizing now there's opportunities to get out instead of sitting on a couch and watch T.V.," Barrett said. "The smiles that are going around just speak for themselves."

Clinic participant Brian Chelf does not play in any adapted sports teams, but said this could provide an opportunity for many to try out a new sport and perhaps discover a new hobby.

"There are a lot of places with teams around here, and this would be a great way to try something out and then maybe take it to the next level like on a weekly sports team," the Iowa City resident said. "You could get hooked on tennis, basketball, and their are people here to help make that possible."

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