Back to Rio for the Paralympics

Last month the United States, as well as most of the world, was fixated on the Olympics. It was on the front page as well as the Sports pages of every newspaper. People were glued to their television and many talked of little else.

What most of them don’t know, however, is what will take place next. Right on the heels of the the Olympics the Paralympics will begin. The Paralympic athletes will participate in many of the same sports, but they do it differently. To qualify an athlete needs to train and prepare for many years.

The other qualification is that each contestant must be physically challenged. Some are blind, some have spina bifida or other spinal difficulties. Many are amputees. Many of the athletes who I know personally, play wheelchair basketball. Some  of the best wheelchair athletes I know are wounded warriors. I particularly remember one who had lost both legs and one arm, but he was amazing on the basketball courts.

A young man from Peru has been living with us for the last six and a half years. We refer to him as our Peruvian son and we are his North American parents. His Peruvian parents share him with us. He was badly burned when he was six years old. He was tending sheep high in the mountains of Peru when one of the sheep wandered into a downed power line and the six-year-old tried to rescue his sheep. He was electrocuted . There was no electricity in their home and no phones. There were no doctors there either.

Finally someone got word out to a doctor who arrived on a motorcycle. He put the child on his back and drove 3 hours over bumpy mountain trails to get him to the nearest hospital. From there he was taken to another hospital in Lima.

He stayed at that hospital for 2 years. In the meantime his burns had become infected and both legs had to be amputated. After 2 years and many surgeries, he was fitted with rather rudimentary prostheses and a a pair of crutches.

Fast forward to 2009: my husband’s sister was on a medical mission trip to Peru. She was doing well baby checks. After one check-up the mother, through an interpreter, asked if Jeane could do something for another of her sons. By this time he was 17 and was still using the same prostheses and crutches that were fitted to him when he was 8.

My sister-in-law brought other professionals into the situation and together they were able to get him a passport, a visa airline tickets and a spot at Shriners Hospital in Los Angeles. He has lived with us ever since, but it wasn’t until 3 or 4 years ago that we learned about athletic programs for people with physical handicaps.

First we learned about ASRA, which stands for Adaptive Sports and Recreation Association. They have programs for children from about 4 years old through adulthood.  Next we learned about Challenged Athletes Foundation. They work with ASRA and other organizations to provide all kinds of support for children and adults with disabilities. This summer the  two agencies put on a summer program for children. Alejandro, our Peruvian son, was one of the counselors at the camp. CAF also provides grants to help the athletes.

In July we attended  the Angel City Games at UCLA. The first couple of days were devoted to exploring many different sports and activities and trying them out. Participants ranged from age 4 to 64 (or more) They offered all kinds of sports such as archery, long jump, swimming. and kayaking. I couldn’t figure out how they were going to do kayaking at UCLA, but it turned out that they did it in a very large swimming pool.

One very special event was a wheelchair basketball game featuring Adam Sandler, who is quite an athlete and plays as well in a wheelchair as out of it.

This year’s Paralympics will begin September 7.  Don’t miss them.

About The Author

Diane Jasa

Diane Jasa lives in San Diego. She writes and runs this blog to help entrepreneurs find opportunities to make money, have a lifestyle of freedom and achieve their dreams. To learn more click here.. You can also find more Diane by visiting the About page.