Northport VA Medical Center
Adaptive Sports Day has deep impact
Northport VAMC – For many disabled veterans, adaptive sports is a means of taking back some part of their lives that disabilities have taken away. For others, it away keeping a positive mind set during hard times. No matter why they have gotten involved, Edward Richards, LMSW, Northport VA Medical Center’s Adaptive Sports Clinic Coordinator, says he has seen adaptive sports make a huge impact in the lives of disabled veterans.
“The real joy of adaptive sports is watching veterans’ reaction when they see that they can do something that they thought they couldn’t,” said Richards. “I have exposed individuals who thought their athletic days were over to adaptive sports and seen a turnaround in their lives as a result.”
Richards recalled his first experience with adaptive sports, when he took a blind veteran suffering from depression for a run around the track. The veteran didn’t think he would be able to do it, but his experience was so positive it became a passion for him. He recently sent Edwards a letter telling of the marathons and cross country bike rides he had taken.
“I really think that being able to exercise and still physically accomplish great things was great therapy for this man,” said Richards. “I love to see that transformation in people.”
Northport VAMC just hosted the fourth annual, VISN 3 Adaptive Sports Clinic, which was the New York/New Jersey Veteran Healthcare System’s biggest to date, drawing about 250 vets and volunteers from several other VA facilities in the Tri-State area. The sports clinic, made possible by multiple donors and sponsors, features four main events; wheelchair basketball, archery, marksmanship (with a laser rifle or pistol) and cycling. New to the event this year was scuba diving, the Long Island Lighting wheelchair basketball team, and demonstrations in judo and yoga.
Richards says the event has come a long way from its humble beginnings. “The first event was coordinated with U.S. Olympic Committee (Paralympics Division) and Disabled American Veterans,” said Richards. “We didn’t have a lot people in that first year, but the event was a big success for its size. Each year’s following has gotten bigger and better.”
Northport has also introduced smaller adaptive sporting clinics throughout the year through Recreational Therapy Services. These clinics, Richards notes, are also very popular.
For information on how to volunteer or if you are veteran who would like to participate in next year’s adaptive sports clinic, contact Richards at (631)261-4480, ext. 2113, or VA Recreation Therapy at (631) 261-4400, ext. 7275/7276