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  • Writer's pictureBeth Reale Foundation

Adaptive Sports and Fitness

Wheelchair basketball... Wow! The adaptive sport that changed my life... the adaptive sport that turned me, this depressed young amputee who never played on a basketball team, into a 2 time National Wheelchair Basketball Association Division 1 National Champion. The adaptive sport that gave me the friendship of other amputees, and physically disabled persons that I could relate to and learn from. Nothing compares to the positive affect the exposure to adaptive sports can have on a young physically disabled person’s life…..Nothing! I am the living proof!

My journey began in the year 2000 when at 24 years old my life changed forever due to a blood clot in my right lower leg. That blood clot led to 4 surgeries, extensive stays in 3 different hospitals, and having my right leg amputated below the knee. I was so happy before my amputation. I had fallen in love with a woman, finished college, and was fulfilling my childhood dream of living in New York. Like most 24 year old men, I had that invincible feeling which changed drastically when suddenly I found myself in intensive care due to a blood clot in my right lower leg. My childhood dream had been shattered and changed into a nightmare that even the strongest of persons would want to wake up from; and now unfortunately that nightmare was my reality.

After having my right leg amputated, I went back to work full time 5 ½ months later. Working as a Physical Therapist Assistant in a skilled nursing facility is a physically demanding job. Now, somehow I was back to working in my same position I had held prior to my amputation; but I was far from being the same person physically, mentally, and emotionally. I was crying on the way to work, teaching patients to walk on days I could barely walk myself, making everyone think that I was ok when I was in shock and devastated that I had to live my life with the mental and physical struggle that living with limb loss causes.

Unfortunately for me after my amputation, I came back into a community that had no adaptive sports outlet for the physically disabled. The rehab hospital had done an amazing job of helping me physically rehabilitate but had done a terrible job of exposing me to adaptive sports. While a patient, at my request, I had Physical Therapists helping me to re-learn playing basketball standing up on my prosthesis. No-

one ever mentioned to me that I was eligible to play wheelchair basketball. No-one told me that wheelchair basketball is the most popular adaptive sport world wide. No-one told me that wheelchair basketball is played collegiately around the country, and has been a Paralympic sport since 1960. Eventually the rehab hospital did start an adaptive sports program which gave me the first opportunity to play wheelchair basketball recreationally, but 6 years were lost due to the lack of exposure and awareness in the mid-hudson valley of New York State.

This lack of awareness for adaptive sports for the physically disabled is rampant throughout my community. I live about 80 miles from New York City, and the lack of awareness is suffocating. Adaptive sports for the cognitively disabled (Special Olympic Athlete) is everywhere, but opportunities for the physically disabled (Paralympic Athlete) are non-existent. So what about all of the physically disabled children, young adults, and their families in our community? Don’t they deserve the hope, opportunity, friendship and fitness that adaptive sports offers? Of course the answer is emphatically yes!

Fast forward to my present life of being the founder, Adaptive Sports Coordinator, and Director of Ali Adaptive Sports and Fitness. We are a non-profit charity and the only adaptive sport program in the mid-hudson valley servicing physically disabled children ages 5-18 by providing year round adaptive sports instruction, mentorship, and grant assistance. We are working diligently trying to identify donors and sponsors to help fund our program, so that we can grow and offer a wide variety of adaptive sports in our community. We have an amazing group of physically disabled kids and their families. New families continue to reach out on behalf of their physically disabled children daily.

Knowing my amputation and death of my able bodied life brings so much hope to physically disabled kids and their families brings me much joy. Ali Adaptive Sports and Fitness is not a job for me, it's a way of life; a mission I wake up and dream about every minute of every day. Wheelchair basketball was the platform that gave me the strength and courage I needed to succeed in life. It will always be my number one priority to expose others to the amazing world of adaptive sports!! I am just the messenger who has seen, and felt first hand how exposure to adaptive sports can positively impact a person's life. Get involved in the movement everyone, either in your community or with Ali Adaptive Sports and Fitness. The Paralympic movement is growing throughout the world let’s everyone do their part and help improve and change someone's life. --- #aliadaptive

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