SportsAbility gives leisure applications for ‘all talents’

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If you drive past Miracle Field in Messer Park on a Thursday night and see a group of people playing sports, take a closer look. “Recreation isn’t just about fun and games,” says SportsAbility Alliance executive director Laurie LoRe-Gussak.

The SportsAbility Alliance’s mission is to enrich life by ensuring there are opportunities for accessible and inclusive active leisure for all who desire improved physical, professional and emotional well-being.

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The organization is one of nine local nonprofits recognized by the Beatitude Foundation and GiveTLH, a community initiative by philanthropist and businessman Rick Kearney. Each organization’s story is shared in the Democrat, along with information on how you can help. Visit talahassee.com/givetlh to learn more.

The SportsAbility Alliance was formed as the Florida Disabled Outdoors Association in 1990 when founder David Jones was paralyzed in a hunting accident. Unwilling to live a life on the edge, he turned what some saw as a tragedy into an opportunity to help people with disabilities become more active to improve not only their mobility but also their mental well-being.

But SportsAbility doesn’t just serve people with disabilities. “In fact, SportsAbility offers programs for people of all abilities,” explains LoRe-Gussek. “Anyone can come to our events. People with and without disabilities learn from each other and when we all recover together we can learn that someone with a disability may need to participate differently but can still participate. This can spill over into the workplace, leading to inclusion.”

The concept is simple: everyone should be able to participate in activities that bring them joy, be it outdoor activities, indoor sports, and even virtual and virtual reality activities. The SportsAbility Alliance works with organizations across the region to provide access to experiences such as boating, scuba diving, skydiving, arts, rugby, archery, fishing, target shooting, paddling and more.

In fact, their annual fundraiser is a canoe race called Big Kahuna, held November 6 at Maclay Gardens, in which teams of 10 to 14 people race in long canoes on Lake Hall. “You don’t have to be a good paddler, you just have to be a good team that works together,” encourages LoRe-Gussak. “It’s not too late to form a team!” Visit sportsability.org to learn more.

The SportsAbility Alliance employs two staff, one of whom is part-time, and relies on over 300 volunteers to run its diverse programs, from ALL-OUT Adventures, the outdoor adventures in nature like fishing, hunting, and boating to RecConnect, funded by the Florida Department of Health’s Brain and Spinal Cord Injury Program to help people with brain and spinal cord injuries.

The SportsAbility Alliance is hosting an annual benefit canoe race called Big Kahuna at Maclay Gardens on November 6, in which teams of 10 to 14 people compete in long canoes on Lake Hall.

And when the SportsAbility Alliance say they aim to include everyone, they mean it. For those who cannot attend events in person, a virtual reality park has been created and is available 24/7. They also provide an online database where anyone can search for disability programs, events, destinations and products

LoRe-Gussak reminds us that disabilities are not always visible. “Many organizations are unaware that people with disabilities attend their events,” she says. The SportsAbility Alliance is here to ensure everyone can have fun in a way that suits them.

GiveTLH awardees each receive a $1,000 grant from the Beatitude Foundation and a 12-month membership with United Partners for Human Services. Following the November reader vote, the top three organizations will also receive grants of $2,500, $5,000, and $10,000, respectively, as well as free registration and exhibitor space at the United Partners for Human Services Annual Conference. The first place organization will also receive $5,000 in services from BowStern Marketing.

The #GiveTLH series will culminate in November with the opportunity for Tallahassee readers to vote for their favorite featured nonprofit. Stories are compiled at give.tallahassee.com.

GiveTLH

About #GiveTLH

#GiveTLH, signed by the Beatitude Foundation and Rick Kearney, is a look at nine nonprofits in our community and how you can help them in their life-changing work. At the end of this series, Kearney will award grants to the nonprofit organization that receives the most votes in an online poll. Visit give.tallahassee.com for more profiles.

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