Posted November 16, 2020 | 10:55 AM

Athletes with Disabilities Have Game

From casual activities to intense competitions, Hillsborough County's Adaptive Sports program has something for everyone

Hillsborough County's Adaptive Sports program offers a variety of sports and activities for people with disabilities. There's archery, basketball, table tennis, football, golf, track & field, cycling, swimming, and other pursuits.

Some people home in on a favorite game or two. Others try them all.

Valerie Rolph is among the latter. A table tennis enthusiast, she also enjoys archery, football, and the program's variety of offerings. The U.S. Air Force veteran uses a wheelchair, but it doesn't slow her down. She is a regular Adaptive Sports participant.

"It just makes you feel good," says the Sun City Center resident. "I have something to look forward to. I feel like I belong."

The Adaptive Sports program, offered by Hillsborough County Parks & Recreation, promotes health, independence, and personal growth through sports for people with disabilities. It aims to meet the recreational and athletic interests of anyone with a disability, of any age. For instance, there are activities for people with conditions such as cerebral palsy, spina bifida, and multiple sclerosis, and those eager to participate despite amputations or blindness. The Special Olympics program serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. A program for wounded and able-bodied U.S. military Veterans also is led by the Adaptive Sports team.

About 150 children and adults participate.

Newlyweds Christie and Jared Kohn remove arrows from a target. The U.S. Army veterans met in the Florida Keys.

Some sports for athletes with disabilities are highly competitive, such as the Strong Dogs wheelchair basketball team. All are part of the County's program for people with disabilities.

The pandemic shut down all Adaptive Sports programming beginning in March. Many activities returned in late October. During the closure, Parks & Recreation sent virtual events/opportunities to Adaptive Sports athletes and their families to keep everyone engaged and active.

With things returning to normal, Newlyweds Jared and Christie Kohn of Thonotosassa recently participated in a morning archery session at All People's Life Center. Both are U.S. Army veterans. "We're all like-minded people, dealing with various issues," Christie says. "This is really therapeutic and fun."

Eager to get involved? Call Adaptive Recreation Specialist Mary Cales at (813) 416-0467, or email her. You also can fill out an interest form on the County website.

Top photo: Valerie Rolph, a U.S. Air Force veteran, takes aim at a recent archery session.


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