Wasatch Adaptive Sports Empowers Through Recreation
Author: Julia Partain
Published Date: 05/01/2020
Read Time: 4 Minutes
Hear from 2 Wasatch Adaptive Sport's students about their growth and empowerment through sports and outdoor recreation.
Mother Nature's playground provides a natural high to anyone recreating on her turf and creating opportunities to nurture this energetic optimism is what Wasatch Adaptive Sports (WAS) does best. Anyone hoping to achieve independence and active living despite physical or developmental disabilities can learn the skill of 16 recreational programs with the help of this non-profit organization.
"WAS is for individuals with adaptive needs - whether that is physical disabilities or cognitive issues and social challenges," said Peter Mandler, Executive Director and founder of WAS. Mandler started the program in 1977 and has seen the program grow from a handful of lessons in the winter to over 2,600 year-round lessons annually.
WAS uses state-of-the-art adaptive sports equipment to offer services to students of all ages and with all types of disabilities.
Their Veterans Program provides outdoor recreational and social activities for veterans coping with military-related physical, cognitive and emotional difficulties.
Winter activities include adaptive, downhill and nordic skiing, snowboarding, snow-shoeing, indoor cycling and yoga. Mountain biking, cycling, paddle boarding, hiking and yoga are offered in the summer. Activities take place at Snowbird, Salt Lake City and surrounding counties.
No initial fee is required by WAS as 92% of participants received financial support through scholarship assistance in 2018-19, thanks to sponsors (including Snowbird, Steve Young and Forever Young Foundation), donations, annual fundraisers and volunteers. To learn more, visit them at Creekside or at wasatchadaptivesports.org .
Meet Two Students Who Exceeded Expectations, One Turn at a Time
On September 5, 2011 Anna Beninati tried to jump onto a moving freight train and failed. 3 30-ton coal cars passed over her legs severing them instantly. After a month of hospitalization, she was discharged with above-knee amputations on both sides. The 17-year-old found herself sinking into a severe depression. Post-traumatic stress disorder, combined with an extreme loss of independence, made her feel as though her life had no worth.
Two months later, she contacted WAS and took her first lesson in a bi-ski. Although it required extreme effort, it took only one run down Chickadee to know that it was worth it. Ski lessons became part of her weekly schedule and eventually moved into a mono-ski. When spring came, WAS introduced her to a handcycle, which empowers the individual, and she was hooked. Since then, she became an instructor for the program, races on the U.S. Paralympic Development Team for Alpine Skiing and is a Snowbird-sponsored athlete.
"Lifetime fitness skills are difficult to instill in people with disabilities, because we're so often reluctant or unable to take that first step," Beninati explains.
"WAS gave me the push and the resources I needed, and because of them, I will be empowered for the rest of my life."
On March 21, 2013, 26-year-old Timothy Gamble suffered a massive stroke caused by a blood clot that lodged in his right carotid artery. As a result, the right frontal lobe of his brain was severely damaged. He spent the next two weeks in the ICU with the left half of his body completely paralyzed. For nearly two years, gamble underwent intense speech, physical and occupational therapies and was able to regain the ability to walk and care for himself as well as drive.
In the summer of 2015, Gamble met with WAS and began attending their weekly cycling events. WAS provided him with the use of one of the recumbent tricycles and other adaptive equipment. He hardly made it a mile the first time out cycling but progressed to multiple miles in just a few months. He now owns his own recumbent bike and rides 20 or more miles each week. WAS also helped to get him back to skiing and snowboarding.
"Without the programs, instructors and support WAS has provided me, I would likely have not ever been able to participate in sports again,"
Gamble says."I plan to continue with them for as long as I can especially as a I enter the role of competitive cycling."
About the Author
Julia Partain, a Salt Lake City native, is a freelance writer and editor for local and regional publications, including Outdoor Sports Guide, Snowbird's annual Bird Magazine and the Salt Lake City Downtown Alliance. When she isn’t writing about happenings in her hometown, you can find her running with her pooch or carving turns with her family at a local ski resort.