Paralympic Sport Club Spotlight: Courage Center

By Traci Hendrix | March 15, 2013, 12 p.m. (ET)

Biweekly, will spotlight one of the Paralympic Sport Clubs making a difference in the Paralympic Movement. Created in 2007 by U.S. Paralympics, a division of the United States Olympic Committee, the community based Paralympic Sport Club program involves youth and adults with physical and visual disabilities in physical activity and sports in their community, regardless of skill level. The program currently has 183 active Paralympic Sport Clubs in 46 states and Washington, D.C. To find Paralympic Sport Clubs and other adaptive, disabled and Paralympic sport opportunities in your community, visit the Paralympic Resource Network.

Debuting as the Minnesota Society for Crippled Children and Adults in 1928, Courage Center has been a constant supplier of support for individuals with injuries and disabilities. From camps to a rehabilitation and physical education center, the nonprofit center provides advanced technologies and innovation to people of all ages with the efforts from thousands of volunteers and donors. The center has multiple initiatives which cater to various participant groups based on age, disability and interest.

Jr. Mamea, Courage Center’s Sport and Recreation Program coordinator, said one of their greatest new developments is Operation Liberty. It is specifically designed for disabled veterans and disabled members of the Armed Forces. 

Since U.S. Paralympics awarded Operation Liberty with grant funding provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs three years ago, the program has made an immense impact in veterans’ lives. They are able to try new sports, get back into previous activities and the experience a variety of adventures throughout the year.

“Courage Center’s Sports & Recreation Department has teamed up with the Veterans Affairs on Operation Liberty, which encourages vets to participate in sports again,” said Vietnam War Veteran, Richard Zieska. Through Operation Liberty, Zieska learned to walk again, drive a golf cart, tee up and swing all through the Courage Center staff’s perseverance for their clients’ success.

“Our facilities give easy access opportunities in multiple locations and programs,” said Mamea. “Working with the VA has resulted in more veterans getting involved and challenges them to try all activities, find their niche, stay active and go beyond what they think they are limited to.”

Operation Liberty within Courage Center poses as a building foundation for the Paralympic Movement with its assortment of activities and unfaltering dedication to help provide a way to achieve active and healthy lifestyles for people with physical disabilities. 

Mamea said the Courage Center informs people of all opportunities available and serves as a prime training facility for Team USA and strong willed athletes who want to continually move forward. He views the previous athletes who have taken part in the club as the most valuable advertisers to sell the unmatched experience with others. He advocates that these mentors and leaders add to Courage Center’s value and improve others’ way of life.

"They are the ones who live it and breathe it every day,” said Mamea. “With this being the tenth year as a Paralympic Sport Club, we still have plenty of room to grow, expand and many more sports to add. There is no limit to the people we can reach and where we can go.”