Have you seen those wheelchair athletes at the start of Bloomday? Have you ever wondered who they are, why they are in a chair, how and where they train? Do you know the difference between Special Olympics and Paralympics? We have answers!
Most of those athletes in wheelchairs you see at the front of Bloomsday represent and train with ParaSport Spokane. Para Athletes are athletes with a physical disability. The Paralympics is geared toward elite competition with athletes having to meet qualifying standards. Special Olympic athletes are athletes with intellectual disabilities. Special Olympics does not disqualify any athlete based on ability or qualifying standards but divides its athletes by like abilities. Both organizations however share a guiding principal: using the power of sport to change the way the world views people who have differences.
ParaSport Spokane is the fastest growing ParaSport program in the nation. Teresa Skinner, a licensed occupational therapist and National Team Coach for Paralympic Track and Field, founded the Spokane organization in August 2013. ParaSport Spokane is open to anyone (adult or child) with any physical disability. The Spokane Valley organization has a total of 80 athletes who train with 8 volunteer coaches in 3 different sports (Wheelchair basketball, track and field, and road racing). Some are just learning to play sports others are internationally ranked athletes.
ParaSport Spokane does not own, or even have access to a regular athletic facility to meet its mission of providing training and competitive opportunities for youth and adults with physical disabilities, which makes their success even more impressive. Teresa Skinner has pieced together a full 7 day a week training calendar through mostly donations of space from churches, public school, doctor’s offices and the girl scouts.
Teresa says, “It’s not ideal but we are thankful for what we do have and make the most of our opportunities.”
Someday she hopes to have access to one central facility which would dramatically impact the scope and reach of this impressive organization.
According to Skinner, “it’s hard for most able bodied individuals to learn a new sport or begin a new training plan. It’s 100 times harder to get a person with a physical disability to try a sport or athletic activity. 99% of the battle is getting that individual to try for the very first time. Usually by the 3rd practice they are hooked and the self-confidence, and joy are impossible to miss.”
ParaSport Spokane uses adaptive sport as a catalyst for life. These athletes train in their wheelchairs on the Bloomsday course 2-3 days a week beginning in April. In addition to the on course training these athletes spend several nights doing strength and conditioning workouts. Please make an effort to watch and cheer these incredible athletes on during Bloomsday this year, they truly are an inspiration.
To learn more about ParaSport Spokane visit www.parasportspokane.org