Fill your Summer with a Little Sport and Adventure

When the sun is shining, there really is no better time to get outside and enjoy all that the season has to offer. Maybe try a sport or hobby you have only dreamed about. With so many opportunities for adaptive athletics across North America that are focused on the outdoors, there has never been a more exciting time to join a team or find a community group to inspire the adventurer in you!

At the Neilsen Foundation, our Creating Opportunity & Independence (CO&I) portfolio works with nonprofit organizations that run exceptional programs geared towards providing people with spinal cord injury (SCI) access to outdoor activities. When summer calls, most people love the idea of getting outside—maybe establishing a fitness goal or meeting new friends. Sports and recreation projects have always been a big part of CO&I, and this year more than a quarter of all the applications received come from organizations that provide opportunities to connect with the great outdoors.

A smiling woman in an adaptive beach wheelchair, wearing a SCUBA outfit and goggles, gives the all is well sign with her right hand as a volunteer pushes her towards the ocean in Santa Cruz, California.
Photo by Shmuel Thaler

If you are looking for fun this summer, from the East Coast to the West Coast, there are programs to fit every personality and skill level.

In upstate New York, Sunnyview Rehabilitation Hospital’s Adapted for Action program offers hiking and golf, and South Carolina Spinal Cord Injury Association provides yoga and wellness sessions. There’s ziplining, swimming, and track and field for the whole family at Georgia’s BlazeSports, and workouts with the United States Rugby Association in Alabama.

Team sports like softball and football are up for grabs at Midwest Adaptive Sports in Missouri, and, in Colorado, Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center offers camping, rafting, and the experience of life among the trees with one of the only fully wheelchair-accessible high ropes courses in the world. Individuals with SCI can enjoy life on the water with the first adaptive sailing program in Canada—The Disabled Sailing Association of British Columbia, and, if you have a passion for the sea, there’s Shared Adventures’ upcoming annual A Day at the Beach event in Santa Cruz, California.

Engaging within your community in an active way is so much more than just trying something new; it can also help reduce anxiety and boost wellness. Breckenridge’s Development Director Hallie Jaeger insists access to outdoor recreation and “finding a sense of community in nature” can lead to improved wellbeing. “The sense of joy, connectedness, awe, and self-accomplishment…is very difficult to put into words,” she explains. The Neilsen Foundation is proud to celebrate our grantee partners’ commitment to motivating people and prioritizing their wellbeing.

We acknowledge it might be tough for individuals recovering from a traumatic injury to think of a return to activities that now feel out of reach. We applaud the courage it takes to push your comfort zone, and the efforts of program leaders, peer mentors, and volunteers, who provide the encouragement that makes participation so much fun! So, go outside and enjoy the day!