Inclusiveness Redefined at World T.E.A.M. Sports' Adventure Team Challenge New York

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National non-profit World T.E.A.M. Sports' September 18-20 Adventure Team Challenge New York provided exceptionally disabled children and adults with an inclusive and inspiring outdoors sports adventure.

Team members and staff join together at the Adventure Team Challenge New York.

Participants and staff gather at the 2014 Adventure Team Challenge New York at The Center for Discovery. Photograph by Melissa Grappone.

The tradition of inclusive events continues with the same energy and excitement generated by participants in years past, building on the ingenuity of those who would dare to take the spirit of Adventure Team Challenge to new and all-inclusive heights.

Cooler days in Upstate New York's Catskill Mountains brought on the turning of Fall color and the harvesting of hard work and preparation for non-profit World T.E.A.M. Sports' September 18-20 Adventure Team Challenge New York.

Since 2010, the Holbrook, New York-based World T.E.A.M. Sports (WTS) has been coming to The Center For Discovery (TCFD), bringing the power of inclusive, outdoor sporting challenges to a community of exceptionally disabled children and adults. Four years later, that tradition continues with the same energy and excitement generated by participants in years past, building on the ingenuity of those who would dare to take the spirit of Adventure Team Challenge to new and all-inclusive heights.

All totaled, 60 TCFD residents have gone through the gauntlet of regatta tournaments, hand cycle relays and orienteering obstacle courses in four previous Challenges. But this year's Adventure Team Challenge received 22 new special athletes, many of whom were among the most medically fragile in the community, creating opportunities for all TCFD residents - no matter how extensive their disabilities - to experience team camaraderie, adventure in the open outdoors and personal, physical achievements never before reached.

Tailored to the abilities of this year's selected athletes, teams called Green Gators, Blue Steel, Yellow Jackets, Red Tide and Orange Crush descended on The Center's playing fields rather than at its normally-held location at Frost Valley. Parents of Nathan, a 16-year old medically fragile resident at the center and team member on Orange Crush, were overjoyed after learning the news that their son was selected to participate in this year's Adventure Team Challenge.

"We've been hearing a lot about Adventure Team Challenge for a couple of years now," said Nathan’s mother, who came with her husband to watch their son participate. "It's really lovely this year that there's not an overnight component. I know that's wonderful for a lot of the kids and adults who do this event, but Nathan and others who are very medically-involved couldn't be away from nursing for long because of the risks. Having it as a day event where they can go home to sleep, while at the same time incorporating some of the cool events like the campfire, was really wonderful."

Thursday afternoon's opening ceremonies ignited the team's enthusiasm and readiness with plaudits from participants, visiting families and The Center's own cheering squad - residents in coordinated fashion and form, who had been preparing their chants in weeks prior for the upcoming event. With the games starting later in the day, Stage 1 had athletes acclimating to extended time in cooler outdoor weather biking and hand cycling a full circle around the track bordering the soccer field with teams advancing and rallying each other on to the finish. Topping off the day, a setting sun made way for an evening jamboree serenading and warming all to Americana acoustics and a crackling campfire.

Friday's morning Stage 2 events split up teams based on their abilities. Some remained at The Center for wheel chair adaptive track and field activities, pushing and pressing large paint rollers and pole sponges through colorful paints, as others partook in a regatta challenge across Morningside Lake - a few short miles from TCFD - where row boats were retrofitted with special seats. For both events athletes comfortably grabbed onto oars or poles and, with the help of their coaches, felt the sensation of paint or water being pushed by their own strength, testing their physical abilities beyond anything they could ever imagine.

After lunch, Stage 3 had all teams regroup for basketball relays, followed by the final adventure team challenge, an orienteering obstacle course through The Center's woodlands, where teams were provided with clues placed on the backs of puzzle pieces to be assembled along the way as they located their markers and joined them together at the concluding ceremonies in a show of unity and inclusiveness.

All teams proudly emerged from the winding trails with clues solved, markers found and completed sections of the puzzle in hand as they made their way back to a cheering crowd of onlookers and loved ones for the concluding ceremonies.

Emotions were high when TCFD Development Officer Richard Humleker summed up the event and the meaning of Adventure Team Challenge for this community. Said Humleker, "It was about six years ago when World T.E.A.M. Sports board member Lon Dolber came up to The Center with one of our board members and a father here at TCFD. It took us about two minutes to convince Lon that we had some athletes here who could do some remarkable things. I've been on every one of these adventures for the last five years and I just love watching the parents watch their kids do some incredible stuff. To the athletes, you make us proud. To the parents, thank you for sharing your children and your family members with us because without them we are uninspired; they make us believe every day of the year."

It was an unforgettable chapter to another successful Adventure T.E.A.M. Challenge in Harris. Sponsored by American Portfolios Financial Services, the Challenge has become an established tradition for The Center for Discovery and a part of the fabric of this special community.

About World T.E.A.M. Sports
World T.E.A.M. Sports is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization chartered in North Carolina and headquartered in Holbrook, New York. Since 1993, World T.E.A.M. Sports has organized athletic events for disabled and able bodied citizens – mountain climbing, white water rafting, biking, and more. Four things always happen at our events: (1) Disabled participants build self-confidence and physical fitness; (2) The disabled provide a role model for other disabled citizens, encouraging them to take up physical activities; (3) The disabled become a moving inspiration to other participants and to spectators when they see that disabled individuals can meet challenges beyond anyone’s imagination; and (4) The disabled and able-bodied participants learn to work as a team to overcome those challenges. A member of the R4 Alliance, World T.E.A.M. Sports changes lives through sports. Learn more about World T.E.A.M. Sports at http://worldteamsports.org/.

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Richard Rhinehart
World T.E.A.M. Sports
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