SANDWICH, MA – Next summer people with physical and cognitive challenges and their families will have access to new adaptive sports programming at DCR’s Nickerson State Park in Brewster, MA thanks to a generous donation from Melissa and David McGraw, the Donald C. McGraw Foundation. The gift establishes a first-of-its-kind collaboration between Spaulding Rehabilitation Network’s Adaptive Sports Centers and the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) in Massachusetts, and it establishes The McGraw Center for Adaptive Sports as a resource for residents and a vacation destination for increasingly mobile and connected adaptive sports enthusiasts.
“This expansion of Spaulding’s adaptive sports program unites organizations with a similar mission to improve quality of life for persons living with disability,” says David Storto, President of Spaulding Rehabilitation Network. “We have a committed partner in DCR, and we are so grateful to Melissa and David McGraw for supporting our shared vision and facilitating the work that will serve as a model for the country.”
Through Spaulding Adaptive Sports Centers (SASC), persons living with disability can engage in recreational activities under the guidance of therapists and adaptive sports professionals. SASC are also Paralympic Sport Clubs and offer competitive sports for seasoned and developing athletes. Through its Universal Access Program, DCR has been working to enhance outdoor recreational opportunities for people of all abilities since 1995.
“There isn’t anything like this in the country,” says David McGraw. “I’m so impressed with the state’s willingness to help and promote this program. We’ll be leading the country by creating a program other parks can follow.”
Tom McCarthy, Director of DCR’s Universal Access Program, says that DCR’s program “brings the world of outdoor recreation to everyone through design, facilities and hands-on programming. What the partnership will bring to the disability community and everyone who surrounds that community – family, friends and everyone – is very powerful. People can take advantage of our excellent resources in a prime vacation spot.”
Though the McGraw Center will formally open in 2017, this past summer, SASC, DCR and the McGraw Center offered a pilot program of adaptive cycling, hiking, and kayaking. Sixteen people from ages seven to 82 participated in 64 sessions from July – September.
Among them was Stephen Leek, 66, of Hyannisport, whose elbow was rebuilt following a mountain biking accident in 2015. The staff, he says, “helped me get over a barrier. I could have said I’ll never ride again, but everyone was there to help. I was exhilarated, not scared.”
Recreation and sports for all is a foundational goal of SASC. “Whether you’re a patient with a new disability transitioning from the hospital to home or someone with long-standing limitations, recreation and sport bring together able-bodied and disabled people in a common activity in a way that transcends barriers,” says Mary Patstone, Director of SASC for the Spaulding Rehabilitation Network.
In addition, adaptive sports “help demystify disability by building a culture of inclusion,” says Oz Mondejar, SRN’s Vice President of Mission and Advocacy. “You see what people can do, what creativity and determination they have, and you might be more inclined to offer a job.”
The McGraw Center will launch in 2017 with a yurt-style operations center, storage trailers for adaptive equipment, handicap parking, and water activities on Cliff Pond, with plans for improved bathroom and shower facilities and an archery range in 2018. The Cape Cod Rail Trail, beach access to Cape Cod Bay, hiking trails, accessible yurts for camping, and more will be available to participants and their families at Nickerson State Park. The season will kick-off with a grand opening event at Nickerson on June 17.
Steve Katzenback, SCC physical therapist who will oversee the McGraw Center, notes that the staff’s expertise in fitting equipment and teaching adaptive strategies will ensure a structured, safe environment to help participants build skills and confidence. All activities will be overseen by SASC staff, who include physical and occupational therapists trained in adaptive sports.
“I’ve seen the passion and commitment Mary and the Spaulding team have, and I’ve seen how adaptive sports have improved quality of life for friends with disability,” says McGraw. “That’s our mission at the Foundation -- to support programs that change people’s lives for the better.”
McGraw’s five-year commitment funds the necessary infrastructure to launch the programs and support the education and research pillars of SASC. The gift will fund internships and capital improvements, such as refurbishing of the park’s tennis courts, and foster collaborations that will sustain the program long into the future.
About Spaulding Adaptive Sports Centers (SASC)
Spaulding opened its first adaptive sports programs in Boston and on Cape Cod in 2001 and expanded to the North Shore in 2009. Spaulding Adaptive Sports Centers are open to all individuals in the community who are living with disabilities. Staff members help each participant find the most appropriate activities for his or her interests, capabilities and needs. SASC became a Paralympic Sport Club in 2013. Today centers are located at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital Boston, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital Cape Cod, and Spaulding Outpatient Center Salem. Visit our website for more information.
About Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Universal Access Program
DCR manages 400 parks and properties comprising about 500,000 square acres within the state. DCR’s Universal Access Program is dedicated to providing outdoor recreation opportunities in Massachusetts State Parks for visitors of all abilities. Accessibility to the parks is achieved through site improvements, specialized adaptive recreation equipment and accessible recreation programs. Visit our website for more information.