Paralympic leaders gather to collaborate & inspire

May 03, 2010, 6:45 p.m. (ET)
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.--The 2010 Developing Amazing Leaders Paralympic Conference, presented by Deloitte, concluded on Monday with a powerful panel discussion that featured aspiring Paralympians Leroy Sutton & Dartanyon Crockett, whose incredilbe story was recently featured on ESPN.  The two Cleveland natives, along with their coaches, shared their journey from the inner city of Cleveland to their current aspirations of joining Team USA.

This final session capped a weekend of learning, inspiration and collaboration for the nearly 350 individuals in attendance.  Program leaders from community-based Paralympic sport and military service organizations came together in Colorado Springs to learn from one another and share ideas that will help grow sport & physical activity opportunities in the United States for individuals with physical & visual disabilities.

"I arrived here frustrated and lacking motivation, and I am leaving with renewed energy, enthusiasm, knowledge and the tools to provide more sports opportunities to individuals in our community with physical & visual disabilities," said Sharon Clark Kelleher, a two-time Paralympian in the sport of wheelchair tennis who is now working with Paralympic Sport San Jose in California.

The conference began on April 30 with a working session for military and community program leaders to find ways to provide injured veterans and service members more ongoing sport opportunities in their communities. The group was also treated to a special presentation by Coach Mike Krzyzewski, who led the U.S. Men's Basketball Team to a gold medal at the Beijing Olympic Games & last month coached the Duke University Blue Devils to an NCAA national championship.

"This conference has been a total eye-opener for me on how the military, VA and community programs can work together," said Stephanie Burns, Chief, Voluntary & Recreation Therapy at the Washington, D.C. VA Medical Center.  "I had no idea the number of community-based programs that U.S. Paralympics is supporting.  My day-to-day work focuses on veterans.  What I learned this weekend helped me realize that veterans are part of the community and we need to work harder to integrate them into sport programs outside the VA."

Nearly 40 education sessions were offered throughout the weekend in the areas of health & wellness, military, program development & management, sport & coaching education, equipment & technology and research. Participants also heard from featured speakers such as Brigadier General Gary Cheek, Olympic gold medalist Nikki Stone, Olympic gold medal soccer coach April Heinrichs and medalists from the 2010 U.S. Paralympic Team.

"I thought this was the best conference I have attended in my 10 year involvement with the Olympic & Paralympic movement," said Heinrichs.  "There was a wealth of information with equal amounts of education and inspiration."

The 2010 Amazing Awards were also presented throughout the conference.  Winners of the awards are recognized for their committment to growing the Paralympic movement in the U.S. and doing so in an inspirational, amazing and impactful way.  The 2010 Amazing Award winners are:

Amazing Leader
Annie Desalernos - City of Sacramento Department of Parks & Recreation, Access Leisure, Paralympic Sport Sacramento

Amazing Sport Club
Paralympic Sport Tampa Bay, A Program of Hillsborough County Parks and Recreation and Conservation

Amazing Investor
Department of Defense

Amazing Impact
Procter & Gamble

Amazing Mentor
Chris Devlin-Young

Amazing Salute
Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund