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Adaptive Sports Iowa Helping All Iowans Get Active

Iowa is getting healthy. Iowa is getting active. And, in March, a new statewide initiative was launched that aims to help all Iowans join in the fun.

Adaptive Sports Iowa (ASI), housed within the Iowa Sports Foundation, is a new organization dedicated to expanding opportunities for Iowa’s population of individuals with physical and visual disabilities to engage in regular physical activity.  The goal of ASI is to be the driving force to collaborate and implement these much needed sport and recreation programs throughout the state. This is very much in line with the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative, which works towards getting all kids healthy and active, including those with disabilities.

 “Iowa has a significant need and we intend to address it. Approximately 100,000 Iowans under the age of 64 live with a physical disability,” said Mike Boone, director of Adaptive Sports Iowa. “Adaptive Sports Iowa will forever change the landscape of sport and recreation in Iowa.”

U.S. Paralympics, a division of the U.S. Olympic Committee, assisted in launching Adaptive Sports Iowa by providing a $25,000 grant that will help ASI identify and serve injured military personnel and youth with physical and visual disabilities who want to participate in sports and live a healthy, active life.

“This effort addresses two ongoing national priorities and two of my primary missions in Congress: increasing opportunities for individuals with disabilities and helping communities remove the barriers to health and wellness.  I was encouraged when I met with some of these young athletes in my office and I saw in their eyes the promise of what they could achieve through this program,” said Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies .

“I applaud the U.S. Olympic Committee’s leadership in promoting physical fitness in general, and in promoting athletic opportunities for students with disabilities in particular.   I look forward to seeing the Paralympic sport program grow over time,” Senator Harkin added.

During the Adaptive Sports Iowa Summit, held March 8 in Des Moines, 75 program leaders from across Iowa came together to change the direction of the Paralympic sport movement in their state.  Opportunities for ongoing, daily physical activity for individuals with physical and visual disabilities have been identified and programs are set to begin in the coming months.

 “Since I came to Congress, I’ve met with too many of my constituents who’ve come back injured after serving our country. For some of these young men and women, their bodies and their lives will never be the same,” said Congressman Bruce Braley (IA-01).  “But we can ensure that they have the opportunity to engage in the same competitive, athletic activities they loved before their service and injuries.

“Programs like the Paralympics and Adaptive Sports Iowa are invaluable to all Iowans. From giving wounded warriors a chance to reclaim their lives, to getting our kids off the couch and involved in sports – these programs benefit so many lives not just through competition, but through encouraging a long, healthy and active lifestyle. I am proud to support these efforts,” Congressman Braley added.

Research shows that daily physical activity for persons with physical disabilities enhances self-esteem, reduces stress and secondary medical conditions and enhances achievement levels in education and employment. Additionally, a recent Government Accountability Office report emphasized the need in communities and schools for expertise and training to provide physical education programming and activity for persons with physical disabilities.

“Key themes from the Iowa Summit included the need for more Paralympic awareness, technical assistance and training.  Due to our infrastructure, brand power and coaching expertise, these are areas where the U.S. Olympic Committee can provide ongoing support," said Charlie Huebner, USOC chief of Paralympics.  "We are hearing these same requests from communities throughout the country, and as a result, the USOC Paralympic Sport Club program has grown to 132 communities since 2008, with a goal of having programming in 250 communities by 2012.”

One of ASI’s first activities will be to lead a team of riders with physical and visual disabilities in the legendary Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI).  RAGBRAI is a challenging, weeklong ride that takes cyclists several hundred miles across the state.  The event is well-known across Iowa and, until now, hadn’t been very accessible for cyclists with physical and visual disabilities, due to accommodation and transportation challenges.  The ASI team will not only allow cyclists with physical and visual disabilities to get out and experience this incredible event by breaking down some of those barriers, but it will also help spread the message and mission of ASI across Iowa.

“This new program isn’t just lip service. Adaptive Sports Iowa will serve individuals with disabilities and help them be physically fit, emotionally well adjusted, and continue living productive lives,” said Brad Waller, Iowa Sports Foundation board member and wheelchair athlete from West Des Moines.