THE POWER OF SPORTS: Bay Area nonprofit brings adaptive sports to people with physical disabilities

Berkeley; Calif. -- For over four decades, an East Bay nonprofit is providing access to sports for people with physical disabilities and visual impairment.

Bay Area Outreach and Recreation Program is dedicated to providing creative adaptive programs to promote fitness, health, and fun.

"Our mission is to improve the quality of life for people with physical disabilities by providing sports and recreational programs," said Rick Smith, Executive Director of the Bay Area Outreach and Recreation Program. "Every single person should have the opportunity to play sports, to recreate, ride cycles. It is just an important part of life."

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, The Bay Area Outreach and Recreation Program offered a multitude of programs from adventures and outings program, wheelchair basketball, goalball, power soccer, sled hockey, and more.

As the pandemic continues, B.O.R.P. participants have access to adaptive cycling, online fitness, virtual outings and adventures to ensure everyone's safety.

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The nonprofit recently added a new kayaking program to their long list of adaptive sports.

During the COVID-19 shutdown, the adaptive sports program found the silver lining by offering online fitness classes.

"COVID hits around mid-March, our first reaction of course was to shut everything down," said Smith. "Everything came to a standstill and then we really put our heads together to see how we can pivot. We were able to pivot pretty quickly into an all virtual fitness program. Our attendance at fitness classes skyrocketed and we had 50, 75 people online watching from all around the country. Even in different countries from around the world."

Playing sports and staying active is beneficial for participant's physical, emotional, and social well-being.

"The benefits just really go on and on. Improved health, improved fitness, improved independence, teamwork," said Smith. "You get this whole socialization piece that's fantastic and friendships. And lets not forget fun. Right? It is a lot of fun to play and to compete. And that is what we offer here at B.O.R.P."

The nonprofit is committed to helping each participant find a sport that best suits their abilities and interests.

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"One of the great rewards about working at B.O.R.P. is getting to be there when folks realize they have another option to recreate," said Leo Siecienski, Program Manager. "When you participate at B.O.R.P., we are going to spend some time getting to know you and showing you the different equipment that we have and fit the best fit for you."

When Jorge Macias was eighteen-years-old, he was hanging outside his home with friends and was shot three times by an unknown person. One of the bullets hit his spinal cord and had to adapt to life in a wheelchair.

"The first year though was pretty bad, it was depressing," said Macias. "And then I went into wheelchair basketball where I met a lot of people similar to me which made me feel like I wasn't alone."

B.O.R.P. helped Macias gain his confidence and build supportive relationships. Now, he hopes to help others and become a recreational therapist.

"When people come here, were focusing on things they can do," said Siecienski. "That's the way that we should all live our lives."

The Bay Area Outreach and Recreation Program is hosting their biggest fundraiser on September 18, 2021. The Revolution Ride, Roll and Stroll invites participants to join the fun and help raise funds to continue their mission to bring access to sports to people with disabilities and visual impairments.

For more information or to donate to Bay Area Outreach and Recreation Program visit their website.