A joyful day for children with disabilities and their families.
By Tom Scott
On Saturday, August 7, United Spinal Association’s 2010 Kids Sports Spectacular at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was a place where kids with disabilities had the chance to experience the excitement and camaraderie of adaptive sports, gain greater self-confidence, and realize their future potential.
Over 30 children and their families and friends joined United Spinal, its partners, as well as many volunteers for a fun-filled day learning how to play a variety of adaptive sports from tennis, basketball, and baseball to handcycling and hockey.
KSS left a lasting impression on all participants, opening a new world of opportunity to many. Adaptive sports provided the perfect platform to teach the kids an even more important lesson– that everyone has the ability to achieve their goals no matter what obstacles they are faced with.
Tears of Joy
Many parents shed tears of joy at the sight of their children interacting and playing alongside other kids. As they watched from the sidelines, some parents had smiles as big as the kids participating.
‘This is the first time I attended and I thought it was wonderful. Domenic was smiling all day. This was Domenic’s first time playing any sports,” said Tina Dolan, Domenic’s aunt.
“As always, we had a great time! We were very excited about the new Power Hockey,” said parent Melissa Pitts.
Melissa’s two sons, Alex, who is a member of United Spinal and his brother Ryan who does not have a disability, had the most fun partcipating in baseball, where kids of all ability levels were able to join in.
Alex, who is 10 years-old and a big fan of the Philadelphia Phillies, said, “I like coming here every year and playing sports with the other kids. The baseball game was definitely my favorite part of the day.”
Another parent commented, “My child rarely has a chance to play with other kids without feeling different. This event offers him a chance to shine.”
“It was so much fun trying out all the different sports. I liked playing baseball. It was my favorite,” said Jose, a young participant who has attended KSS the last 4 years and crushed a couple of jaw-dropping line drives past volunteers.
Jose’s mother Mayra said that her son hurt himself just two days before KSS and they thought that he wouldn’t make it to the event. Jose thought otherwise and went on to play baseball and every other sport.
According to Jose Sr., Jose always enjoys having a chance to get out and play with other kids with disabilities. “ My son has a rare bone condition and it’s very difficult to find recreational activities that he can get involved in near our home. We really appreciate United Spinal Association and everyone involved in KSS for offering us an outlet for our son to play sports.”
Since getting involved with KSS, Jose is now interested in joining adaptive sports programs in the Philadelphia area.
The children were an inspiration to watch. One attendee commented, “Their enthusiasm is incredible and they have so much heart. You can see the making of many future athletes today.”
David Brown of Carlysle, PA, who is an amputee, couldn’t pass on the opportunity to attend KSS with his son who is struggling with the challenges of living with spina bifida.
“There aren’t too many events like this in PA for kids and young adults with disabilities such as spina bifida. This is the first time we are attending KSS, but I think we will definitely be back next year. My son had so much fun today,” Brown added.
And it’s not only the kids who get a great deal of enjoyment from the event, supporting staff and volunteers are just as excited to help out each year.
Sylvia Krangel, administrative coordinator at Bayada Nurses, which has co-sponsored the event over the years, remembers her experience attending the first KSS and how it left a lasting impression.
“The first year at KSS, one of the activities for the kids was ballroom dancing. I remember watching this little girl using a wheelchair, dancing for the first time. As I watched her, the wheelchair seemed to disappear and all I saw was a child having so much fun. And that is what this event is all about,” Krangel explained.
“KSS is such a beneficial experience for children with disabilities because it not only introduces them to adaptive sports, but also brings an important message along with it, that is to ‘access what life has to offer,’ said.
Renee Kirby, assistant director of Disability Services and Student Affairs at Temple University, who was busy instructing participants on wheelchair tennis throughout the day.
Grown-Ups Pitch In
During the event, kids were divided into three groups and participated in instructional clinics for each sport led by experienced athletes with disabilities. The instructors also spent time giving participants one-on-one lessons.
Instructors/vounteers included players from Magee Sixers wheelchair basketball team; representatives from Philadelphia Power Play and Shriners Hospital for Children; and Tribit Green and Renee Kirby from the United States Tennis Association and the Philadelphia Center for Adaptive Sports––Tennis Raquet Program.
“We’d like to thank everyone involved in making KSS a success year after year. This event wouldn’t be possible without the support of our partners, volunteers, and most importantly our participants and their families,” said Paul J. Tobin, president and CEO of United Spinal Association.
The Kids Sports Spectacular was hosted by United Spinal Association and Comcast-Spectacor, the Philadelphia-based sports and entertainment firm that provided use of the Wells Fargo Center for the event. Other sponsors/ supporters included Aramark, which provided a free lunch to all participants; Bayada Nurses; Campbell’s Soup; Ride-Away Wheelchair Vans and Modifications, and Pepsi Bottling Group of Philadelphia.
After lunch was provided, United Spinal Association presented Katie’s Komets, a Philadelphia area team for children with physical and developmental disabilities with a donation of $1,000 to be used to replace and repair the players’ sports wheelchairs and equipment for the upcoming season.
Stacy Johnson, whose son Rasheed was born with spina bifida, accepted the donation on behalf of the team.
“We are thrilled to be a part of KSS and have our kids participate. It’s such a fantastic learning opportunity for all of them and teaches life skills such as teamwork, cooperation, and commitment. Thanks to United Spinal and their donation, we will be able to improve our program and purchase some much needed equipment,” Johnson said.
To check out more photos and video from KSS, please visit www.unitedspinal.org/kss.
Tom Scott is staff editor.