Biweekly, USParalympics.org 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.
Wheelchair tennis is one of the sports that Coastal Carolina Adaptive Sports and Recreation offers.
Becoming South Carolina’s first Paralympic Sport Club in Feb. 2012, Coastal Carolina Adaptive Sports and Recreation, known previously as Sports Mobility Network, has grown significantly in the last year as it works to further the Paralympic Movement.
Melinda Chappell, president of CCASR, gives the United States Olympic Committee's Paralympic Leadership Conference presented by Deloitte, an annual conference in Colorado Springs, Colo., credit for the quick development of opportunities for physically and visually impaired persons around Myrtle Beach.
“When I went to the Paralympic Leadership Conference, I was inspired by the Paralympic Movement,” Chappell said. “I was so excited to get back to South Carolina and share everything I had learned. The PLC encouraged me to expand Coastal Carolina Adaptive Sports and Recreation into something bigger, into something that could incorporate all disabilities.”
CCASR, also known as Paralympic Sport Club North Myrtle Beach, has hefty programs for archery and wheelchair tennis. But once focused on providing programming solely to those participating in individual sports for wheelchair users, CCASR has changed its focus since last April’s conference to include more sports, including bowling, field and wheelchair basketball.
This year, the club hopes to add boccia ball to the line-up.
CCASR is also now aiming to provide more inclusion for athlete's families, something that other clubs have shown is important for success. Chappell said family involvement and encouragement better equips athletes to live a healthy lifestyle.
While the Paralympic Sport Club has grown, its annual event, the Southeastern Regional Wheelchair Games, has grown too. This year's Games, April 19-21 in North Myrtle Beach, will include shooting for the first time.
Activities at the Southeastern Regional Wheelchair Games kick off with a Paralympic Experience, which aims to give physically and visually impaired people a chance to try new sports, and then moves to competition.
“The Southeastern Regional Wheelchair Games have been around for over 19 years,” said Chappell. “They get larger every year, and since the spark of the Paralympic Experience, more veterans and people with varying disabilities have been participating.”
The annual competition, along with many more events offered by CCASR, allows athletes with physical and visual impairments to go beyond recreational sports and compete. It also serves as an avenue to build relationships, not only for athletes, but for CCASR.
“Hosting events fuels the fire for other programs to connect, work together and support each other,” said Chappell.
CCASR has collaborated with neighboring programs like Bridge II Sports, Southeastern Wheelchair Sports Association and Wheelchair and Ambulatory Sports USA as well as other regional events such as Dixie Games in order to promote visibility for the Paralympic Movement and disabled athletes.
While CCASR is still stabilizing its building blocks, its designation as a Paralympic Sport Club has helped put the development on the fast track in many respects.
Chappell said program development and strategic planning is continually moving forward since becoming a club. U.S. Paralympics, a division of the U.S. Olympic Committee, has helped CCASR form a relationship with financial and technical consultants from Deloitte, an official USOC sponsor.
CCASR was also awarded more than $23,000 through the Olympic Opportunity Fund (OOF) for Disabled Veterans and Members of the Armed Forces, a USOC grant program funded by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Office of National Veterans Sports Programs and Special Events.
“We may be small now, but we have seen steady growth,” said Chappell. “And when you are aligned with elite programs like the USOC, people recognize the work you are doing and, in turn, they learn about the Paralympics and what the Movement is all about."
The Christopher Reeve Foundation has also recently awarded the quality of life grant to provide sport and recreational programs for individuals with paralysis.
“I just want CCASR to be able to serve everyone with a disability that is interested in sports and involve our community, as a whole, in the Paralympic Movement,” Chappell said. “Our most important feat to focus on is creating a vision and overall awareness for disabled activity.”