SportsAbility offers recreational programs for “all levels”
When you pass Miracle Field in Messer Park on a Thursday night and see a group of people playing sports, take a closer look. “Recreation is not just fun and games,” says Laurie LoRe-Gussak, Executive Director of SportsAbility Alliance.
The mission of SportsAbility Alliance is to enrich lives by ensuring that there are accessible and inclusive active recreation opportunities for all who wish to improve their physical, occupational and emotional well-being.
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The organization is one of nine local nonprofits recognized by the Beatitude Foundation and GiveTLH, a community effort supported by philanthropist and businessman Rick Kearney. Each organization’s story will be shared in the Democrat, along with information on how you can help. Visit talahassee.com/givetlh to learn more.
Founded in 1990 as the Florida Disabled Outdoors Association, SportsAbility Alliance began when founder David Jones was paralyzed in a hunting accident. Unwilling to live his life on the sidelines, he turned what some saw as a tragedy into an opportunity to help people with disabilities become more active, not only to improve their mobility, but also their mental well-being.
But SportsAbility doesn’t just serve people with disabilities. “In fact, SportsAbility offers programs for people of all abilities,” says LoRe-Gussek. “Anyone can come to any of our events. People with and without disabilities learn from each other, and if we all recreate together, we can learn that a person with a disability may need to participate differently, but they still can. This can translate to the workplace, which leads to inclusion.
The concept is simple: everyone should be able to participate in activities that bring them joy, whether it is outdoor activities, indoor sports or even virtual activities and virtual reality. SportsAbility Alliance partners with organizations across the region to provide access to experiences such as boating, scuba diving, skydiving, art, rugby, archery, fishing , shooting sports, paddling and more.
In fact, their annual fundraiser is a canoe race called Big Kahuna, which takes place at Maclay Gardens on November 6, in which teams of 10 to 14 people race in long canoes on Hall Lake. “You don’t have to be a good paddler, you just have to be a good team working together,” LoRe-Gussak encourages. “It’s not too late to form a team!” Visit sportsability.org to learn more.
SportsAbility Alliance has two employees, one of whom is part-time, and relies on more than 300 volunteers to carry out its various programs, ranging from ALL-OUT Adventures, which offers nature-based outdoor adventures such as fishing, hunting, and boating, to RecConnect, funded by the Florida Department of Health Brain and Spinal Cord Injury Program to help people with brain and spinal cord injuries.
And when SportsAbility Alliance says it aims to include everyone, it means it. A virtual reality park has been created for those unable to attend events in person and is available 24 hours a day. They also provide an online database for anyone to search for programs, events, destinations and products for people with disabilities.
LoRe-Gussak reminds us that disabilities are not always visible. “Many organizations don’t realize people with disabilities are attending their events,” she says. SportsAbility Alliance is here to make sure everyone can have fun in a way that suits them.
GiveTLH winners each receive a $1,000 grant from the Beatitude Foundation and a 12-month membership in United Partners for Human Services. Following reader voting in November, the top three organizations will also receive grants in the amount of $2,500, $5,000, and $10,000, respectively, along with free registration and exhibitor booth space to the annual United Partners for Human Services conference. The organization that wins first place will also receive $5,000 in services from BowStern Marketing.
The #GiveTLH series will culminate in November with a chance for Tallahassee readers to vote for their favorite profiled nonprofit. Stories will be compiled on give.tallahassee.com.
#GiveTLH, underwritten by the Beatitude Foundation and Rick Kearney, is a look at nine nonprofits in our community and how you can help them in their life-changing work. At the end of this round, Kearney will award grants to the nonprofit that gets the most votes in an online poll. For more profiles, visit give.tallahassee.com.
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