Intro to Paralympics: it’s all about inclusion!

Looking at Jordan, you wouldn’t think she would be able to throw such a heavy basketball with such small hands. Sure enough, Jordan aimed her basketball at the hoop and threw the ball high, laughing and smiling from her wheelchair. Jordan was having a blast playing basketball, but was also intrigued by the variety of sports available at the Introduction to Paralympic Sports on November 13 at the South Shore YMCA Quincy Branch. Jordan made her way around the Y in her pink sweater and big eyes filled with curiosity, trying sport after sport along with dozens of other youth and young adults.Jordan throwing a basket ball

Jordan is an 8-year-old girl from Cape Cod living with Cerebral Palsy. Besides her enthusiasm toward the variety of sports she had never played before, Jordan found the Introduction to Paralympic Sports great because she could play with other kids like her. The trip from Cape Cod to Quincy is not a short one, but for Jordan’s family it was worth it. “There is no opportunity like this [in Cape Cod] and Jordan is the only child in her school with a disability,” Jordan’s mother shared. This introductory event teaches families like Jordan’s what opportunities are available for kids to come out and play with other kids with visual or mobility impairments.

The event succeeded in it’s mission to reach youth and adults with visual and mobility impairments to participate in sports. Joe LeMar, a track and field Paralympian from the  Barcelona and Sydney Paralympic Games, thought the event was an “incredible opportunity for many young individuals and new participants to find their potential.”  Though Joe walks and runs on a prosthetic leg, he plays many wheelchair sports and has really fallen in love with softball. Recently, he initiated the first US wheelchair softball team. “Go and try anything and everything,” said Joe. “I wish I had tried softball before I did, so I would’ve known how capable I was earlier.”

There were 12 Paralympians leading sport clinics, all of who shared their stories and gave advice to young participants. Shawn Cheshire, a Paralympic cyclist who competed in the 2016 Rio Games, became visually impaired after an accident and started racing a tandem bike three years ago. As young a 41 as Tom Brady is 39, Shawn is determined to continue her tandem cycling journey and pursue her goal to become a Para-cycling world champion.

With her positive outlook on sports and life as a whole, Shawn Cheshire motivated many participants with her life philosophy. “Just being active, in general, is very healthy, not only for your body, but for your mind. We often take physical challenges as barriers to accomplish great things, but they can be the gateway to amazing opportunities and lifelong success,” Shawn explained.

“The fall Introduction to Paralympic Sports was really a product of Spaulding Adaptive Sports Centers, Northeast Passage, Community Rowing, South Coast Adaptive Sports, and of course South Shore YMCA’s Quincy branch,” said Adaptive Sports New England President Joe Walsh.  “They put on the clinics and generated the smiles. Of course pros like Paralympic gold medalists Jerome Singleton, Joe LeMar, Rob Walsh, Mike Prout and Pam Fernandes bring priceless experience and knowledge the athletes and families are eager to learn. The enthusiasm of the Rio team members, and how they interacted with participants was also incredibly special.”

Femita Ayanbeku signing autographsAdaptive Sports New England is dedicated to fulfilling the needs of kids like Jordan who have little access to adaptive sports near home. Learn more about our mission. We initiate inclusion programs in high schools in order to offer more inclusive sports opportunities among youth with disability. From our swimming program to wheelchair basketball programs across Greater Boston, Adaptive Sports NE will continue to host opportunities for those with disabilities, regardless of whether they want to play sports for fitness purposes or to train and eventually compete at the Paralympic level.

Adaptive Sports works with organizations of similar missions and core ideas. In doing so, organizations that specialized in different type of sports can offer the best to those who are seeking specific sports opportunities. Learn more about our initiatives

Youth and adults with disabilities can learn more information about our past and ongoing events, and can also register for upcoming programs here.


This blog post was created by PRLab at Boston University for Adaptive Sports New England