Salus University’s first Adaptive Sports Day can be summed up in two words: “Community” and “Connectivity.”
The event, ostensibly to introduce the community to the University’s new Orthotics and Prosthetics (O&P)
program that will welcome its inaugural cohort of students in the fall of 2022, did exactly that.
“The most important thing I have noticed today is the fact that we, as a disabled community, have had a chance to network, to increase fellowship, and to get together,” said Reggie Showers, of West Philadelphia, who works for College Park Industries, a company that produces prosthetic components.
The daylong event, held at the Hafter Student Community Center
on the Elkins Park, Pennsylvania campus, welcomed community members with limb loss or orthotic bracing to participate in a host of activities, including yoga, seated volleyball, a mobility obstacle course, adaptive golf taught be the Eastern Amputee Golf Association, tennis, pickleball and wheelchair basketball. Salus partnered with Hanger Clinic, a leading national provider of products and patient care services that assists in enhancing or restoring the physical capabilities of those with disabilities, for the event.
“I’ve seen a lot of smiling faces, engagement and people interested to learn and meet new people,” said Matt Johnson, area director for Hanger Clinic. “There is a huge need for orthotic and prosthetic professionals now. We have an aging population of clinicians who are retiring. It’s a wonderful profession and we need to increase awareness and get more people into the field.”
Showers, who was electrocuted and lost both legs when he was 14 years old after coming in contact with an overhead power line while playing on top of a train boxcar, said events like Adaptive Sports Day help empower disabled people.
“The most important thing and the most amazing thing that I’ve seen here today is just being around other disabled people,” he said.
Beth Kase, of Morton, Pennsylvania, agreed. Seven years ago, at age 50, she developed strep throat, which led to septic shock. Although doctors were able to save her organs, she had both hands and feet amputated.
"This is so vital to the challenged community because it reinforces to individuals that we are not alone,” she said. “We may not see each other out in society, but when we get together, we see how everybody is thriving.”
She also mentioned meeting and joining in community with individuals who experience similar challenges and who are succeeding is uplifting.
“Just knowing we are not alone and there are therapists that know how to deal with us,” Kase said.
Chris Kaag, founder and CEO of the IM ABLE Foundation, which raises funds to provide grants for adaptive sports equipment, became disabled while serving the U.S. Marines. He said being around other disabled people at events like Adaptive Sports Day enables him to expose other disabled people to things like an adaptive bicycle.
“Being disabled is not cheap. When I was in the Marines and in the hospital, I saw kids with disabilities and I really wanted to help provide them with an opportunity to have a normal childhood,” he said. “I’m able to raise funds to provide grants to get these kids the equipment that’s going to offer them the possibilities of getting out and about.”
Julie Quinlan, MPO, MS, CPO, ATC
, who works as a clinician at Hanger Clinic and is now on the O&P faculty at Salus, said her personal goal for the event was to connect people in the differently abled community with each other as well as others in the Salus community.
“Awareness of the (Salus O&P) program is important because without the support of the community, it wouldn’t be possible. In order to let people know that we are here and have the program available, we want the community to be involved in that,” said Quinlan.
She added that with the success of the University’s first Adaptive Sports Day, the hope among Hanger Clinic and Salus staff is that more events like it can be planned.