HomeCommunity NewsDavid Laurell: Inaugural Adaptive Sports Expo Celebrates Resilience, Inclusivity

David Laurell: Inaugural Adaptive Sports Expo Celebrates Resilience, Inclusivity

Nov. 26 is one of those days that pass by without fanfare, although that may be different if people knew it was the birthdate of Willis Carrier who invented modern air conditioning. It was also the date that saw the births of “Peanuts” cartoonist Charles Schulz and the legendary songstress Tina Tuner.

As for Nov. 26 of 2004, which fell on a Friday, it was a day that went by without garnering significant importance of any sort, perhaps because most people were still in a tryptophan coma due to all the Thanksgiving turkey they consumed the previous day.

It was a day in which “My Boo” by Usher and Alicia Keys was topping the music charts, and moviegoers were catching films like “The Polar Express,” “The Incredibles,” “Napoleon Dynamite,”  and “Ray.”

Overall, Nov. 26, 2004, did nothing to distinguish itself as any sort of monumental day to be remembered … unless you were Andrew Skinner.

Just six months after graduating from college with a great job lined up, Skinner was dating a beautiful woman named Kirsten. Having celebrated Thanksgiving at his family’s cabin in Lake Arrowhead, Skinner saw the ground blanketed in fresh snow the next day, just perfect for sledding, skiing and snowboarding.

“I fell while I was snowboarding,” said Skinner. “It did not appear to be a hard fall [but] the landing apparently was. When I fell, I broke the fourth, fifth and sixth cervical vertebra in my neck and suffered a spinal cord injury.”

Instantly paralyzed from the neck down, Nov. 26, 2004, became a day Skinner would never forget.

Kirsten stayed by his side during years of physical therapy. The couple married and today are the parents of a 24-year-old daughter named Betty.

Ron Rothacher represents Burbank Kiwanians at Burbank’s inaugural Adaptive Sports Expo.

Two years before Betty’s birth, in 2008, the Skinners established the Triumph Foundation with a mission to inspire people with spinal cord injuries to triumph over their disability and push themselves to get better every day by moving forward with their lives.

Today, the Triumph Foundation has become the go-to organization for people living with mobility impairments in Southern California.

“The work of the foundation first came to our attention through the Burbank Advisory Council on Disabilities,” said Jennifer Lev, who serves as a recreation manager with the Burbank Parks and Recreation Department.

“The Advisory Council members were so enthusiastic about the work of the Triumph Foundation that they introduced us to the right people and that became the impetus for our planning of Burbank’s inaugural Adaptive Sports Expo,” Lev added.

Modestus Igwe bangs down the walls of stress, isolation and stigmas through drumming at last week’s expo.

This past Saturday saw the first expo come to fruition at McCambridge Park under Lev’s leadership with the support of Recreation Supervisor Noah Altman, Deputy Director Diego Cevallos, and their committee all working under the guidance of the department’s Director Marisa Garcia.

Presented as a community celebration of resilience, inclusivity, determination, courage, and the transformative power of sports for all, the event showcased athletes of all abilities during a day of activities that included wheelchair rugby, tennis, boccia, power wheelchair soccer, chair yoga, visually impaired Judo, beep baseball and parafencing.

Following an opening ceremony presided over by Garcia, Skinner and Burbank Mayor Nick Schultz, the day’s activities also included vendor and information booths and a drum circle whose mission is to bang down walls of stress, isolation, and stigma and build bridges to inclusion, acceptance and wellness through the therapeutic benefits of group drumming.

“The Adaptive Sports Expo provides an essential platform for individuals with disabilities to showcase their talents, determination and resilience by participating in high-quality sports and physical activities,” said Schultz, just before meeting with participants and engaging in a few plays of power wheelchair soccer.

Andrew Skinner of the Triumph Foundation and Mayor Nick Schultz welcomed participants to last week’s expo.

“These invaluable recreational opportunities not only enrich the lives of participants but also foster a sense of inclusivity for the community.”

Later in the day, while walking through the expo, Garcia said she was grateful for the work of Lev, the committee, the Triumph Foundation, and the partners and sponsors who worked with the city to make the event a success.

“The Parks and Recreation Department is all about community inclusiveness and what segments of the community we need to better engage with,” Garcia said. “This expo was designed to develop a comprehensive, innovative and diverse offering of programs to allow individuals of all ages and ability levels to participate in activities that improve their quality of life, boost self-confidence and self-esteem, and help them overcome challenges and achieve personal goals. As a department, our goal is to continually expand on what needs we need to fill and what we are learning through organizations like the Triumph Foundation. We want to see our adaptive sports programs grow and ultimately even work with neighboring cities to form leagues.”

Last week’s expo showcased athletes of diverse abilities during a day of sporting activities that included power wheelchair soccer.
Mayor Nick Schultz met with adaptive sports participants and even took part in a few plays of power wheelchair soccer.
Monica, Rhiann and Mikayla of the L.A. Kings Ice Crew and the team’s mascot Bailey welcomed members of the public to last week’s expo.
State Sen. Anthony Portantino, Paul McKenna Jr., Marisa Garcia, Gary Peterson and Diane Cripe came out to support the expo.
Chris Wahl of Wahlbangers Drum Circle Organization led a group in the therapeutic benefits of group drumming.
Rebecca Deerr represents Wayfinder Family Services, which offers adaptive sports programs for individuals who are blind or visually impaired.

DAVID LAURELL may be reached by email at dlaurell@aol.com or (818) 563-1007.

First published in the February 24 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

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