GC, ASCI Host Conference on Adaptive Paddle Sports

Garrett College
and the Adventure Sports Center International (ASCI) hosted a three-day adaptive paddle sports training conference last week to over 60 participants from around the country. The event was sponsored by a partnership between Team River Runner (TRR) and Adapt2Achieve (A2A), a program of Disable Sports USA (DSUSA).

The conference included administrative seminars and adaptive paddling trainings and certifications by the American Canoe Association plus instruction in kayaking, paddle boarding and paracanoe. These trainings were provided to enhance the skills of instructors who work with disabled individuals to help them gain greater independence, fitness, and self-confidence.

The Garrett County site, long used by TRR for trainings, provided all the necessary venues for kayak trainings. The Garrett College Community Aquatic and Recreation Complex (CARC) pool was used for introducing and practicing new adaptive paddling techniques prior to using them outdoors. Deep Creek Lake became a classroom for flat water paddling, while the whitewater course at the Adventure Sports Center International (ASCI) on Marsh Mountain served as the training site for more adaptive kayaking skills in moving water.

In addition to learning the best practices for teaching paddling skills to individuals with disabilities, the conference participants got hands-on training in modifying paddling equipment to suit the needs of people with a range of disabilities. Modifications might include changes to seating to provide sufficient support for a person with spinal injuries or devising paddle grips that could be used effectively with one hand.

Kevin Carr, an engineer, traveled to Garrett College from Minnesota to take part in the conference. He has focused his engineering skills on developing modified paddling accessories that will permit a disabled person to have independent access to kayaking. This work has become an avocation for Carr who partners with other like-minded engineers. He has established a website creatingability.com that features the various apparatus that enhance independence.

During the conference Carr led workshops to teach techniques for making simple adaptations using Styrofoam, padding, and duct tape, as well as, how to implement some of the devices he has developed. Demonstrating the installation of a modified kayak seat he explained its benefits for disabled people. “They can use it on their own. They can get in and out without assistance. It’s all about doing it for themselves,” he said. “It’s about dignity” explained his teaching partner Jamie Jackson. Jackson has been teaching Adaptive Paddling for about 12 years. “This is how I spend my vacation time – I love doing this stuff.”

Both TRR and DSUSA are charitable organization originally established to improve the lives of wounded military veterans. DSUSA began as a program to serve Vietnam veterans and has since grown into one of the nation’s largest multi-sport, multi-disability organizations, annually serving more than 60,000 wounded warriors, youth and adults with disabilities. TRR was initially established in 2004 to help active duty military personnel wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan who were recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. With the success there obvious and the opportunity elsewhere apparent, TRR expanded to other Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) chapter sites in 2007.

Financial support for DSUSA and TRR comes through donations to the organizations. To help these organizations develop strategies to enhance their efforts at seeking contributions, Cherie Krug, Executive Director of the Garrett College Foundation, addressed the group on key points of fund-raising and donor solicitation.

Sue Fowler, program director for Garrett College Continuing Education and Workforce Development, helped to coordinate the group activities on the college campus. “It is always inspiring to see the desire for independence and the work that individuals put in to creating a full and happy life. I’m not just talking about the veterans. I’m so inspired by the kind-hearted people from all over the country that dedicate their time and energy into helping these organizations. I’m proud of the many people in our county who help make this a great experience, too– the girl scouts, Uno’s, Santa Fe staff, Joanne and Harold Harsh, Donna Broadwater, ASCI, Adventure Sports Institute faculty/ staff and countless others,” she said.    

More information on Team River Runner and Disable Sports USA is available online at www.teamriverrunner.org and www.disabledsportsusa.org.

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