WBZ Cares: Supporting Young Athletes

BOSTON (WBZ-AM) -- Each month, “WBZ Cares” highlights a worthy non-profit organization and tells the story of what that organization does for the community. This month WBZ is profiling Adaptive Sports New England, a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing participation in sports and physical activity among New England youth and young adults who have visual or mobility disabilities.

WBZ Cares features Adaptive Sports New England, making sports more accessible for kids and young adults like Lexington High School Senior Lillian Ellmore who has a form of cerebral palsy.

“My brain is telling most of my limbs to contract all day, every day. So it feels like I have a charley horse all over my body all the time. And that's not fun. And it's really hard to move your muscles in ways that feel good. Which is why I love rowing so much because yes, I’m moving my body, but it feels good to move my body,” said Adaptive Sports Rowing participant Lillian Ellmore.

Lillian uses a wheelchair to get around. With simple modifications to a stationary rowing machine she's able to take part in a rowing clinic. Just one of the many Adaptive Sports programs offered tailored to a variety of disabilities. 

“For us especially, I feel like being in tune with our bodies and connecting with our bodies is definitely a huge factor in how independent you can be. And for me rowing has helped me get it so much in touch and connect with my body on a deeper level,” Ellmore stated.

Through the program she's also making social connections.

“I love the people that are in my little class with me. I met one of my best friends who’s also in a chair, and so it's just really nice to have that camaraderie,” noted Ellmore.

Joe Walsh founded the non-profit in 2013.

“I myself am legally blind, and so I grew up playing sports. I had the privilege of being able to play sports and was supported by my family, but I realize not every kid who's blind or has a physical disability has the chance to play sports,” outlined Adaptive Sports New England Founder and President Joe Walsh.

As the former Managing Director of the U.S. Paralympics, he saw the need for more programs and services in Boston supporting young athletes with visual and mobility impairments. Adaptive Sports New England fills that need. 

“We've got kids as young as four and we also serve some young adults in their 20s and even in their 30s. We focus mostly on school-type sports, so swimming and track and field, basketball in the form of wheelchair basketball, we have a great partnership with Community Rowing and other sports. It's a big boost for their self-confidence. All the things we know about the effects of sport participation are true for these kids. They feel better about themselves physically and psychologically, and they have friends that they train with, and they look forward to the experience and practice every week, and it's just a great experience for them,” concluded Walsh.

WBZ NewsRadio1030's Shari Small Reports

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