Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation Blog, June 12, 2020: “Adaptive Sports in the Summer of Covid 19”

We have done more family bike rides this spring than all of last summer combined given we are home, and cycling is a nice form of exercise for us to do as a family, Geoff included. We are also able to do this socially distancing with the four grandparents, who are still patiently awaiting a time when they can hug us all again… While biking has been our family outing of choice, our kids, however, keep asking, “When will Daddy be able to ride with his friends again?” What they mean to say is, “When will Daddy be able to ride with his friends, so we won’t have to all the time– it’s exhausting!”They are also asking when Eastern Adaptive Sports will be active again for people with physical and cognitive disabilities.Krill Family

When one’s daddy runs a nonprofit adaptive sports program and has since one remembers, it always has felt like “Daddy’s friends” were just coming over to ride, or he would leave to meet them somewhere to ride. Or, on Tuesday or Thursday night and many weekend summer mornings, he would head to Squam Lake to take them fishing, and on Wednesdays to Little Squam Lake for water skiing. Daddy’s summer sporting friends and their families have never felt like “Daddy’s summer work”; rather it’s just what Daddy does. And their Aunt Michelle helps Daddy organize these activities along with an entire slew of volunteers. These are activities that he facilitates for other people and when they join him it’s like having an adult playgroup through recreation.

I recently posed the question in Reeve Connect, the Online Community asking what people and program’s thoughts were about the upcoming summer in relation to COVID-19. Crickets. Not one person replied, commented, or maybe even read the question. Maybe, like Eastern Adaptive Sports, they are just waiting to see what guidelines and modifications will be put out by individual states. Everything from personal protective equipment (PPE) and essential eligibility requirements will likely change. These guidelines are based on the size of one’s program, the volunteers and staff that may be coming from different communities, and states regularly. All of this complicates the joy and freedom of adaptive sports. Many adaptive athletes feel isolated more than ever during the Quarantine of COVID-19. Some families have anticipated the start of summer programming since it ended in September. How many more months until I’m fishing again? How many more days until I can be ripping around the lake on a waterski? How many more days until I can socialize with the young college kids who volunteer and are kind and laugh with me, and it is literally my best day of the week? Not having this kind of programming will most certainly contribute to additional feelings of isolation and depression. So, which is worse?

Clearly, programs will need to be modified to meet the needs of state and CDC guidelines. We don’t yet know what that will look like, but they are trying to imagine, and problem solve.

A local hand cyclist with a spinal cord injury reached out a few weeks ago to say, “I saw Geoff out riding. Why didn’t he let me know there was an EAS ride scheduled?”We had just been biking as a family, but in this moment, I wasn’t sure how to respond. That was us out riding as a family, which is the ultimate goal for many students and their families who participate in adaptive sports programs. This kind of recreation is how Geoff rolled back into life again all those years ago following his spinal cord injury. The best summer adaptive sports programs don’t feel like programs at all. They feel like safe, organized, and fun opportunities to get outside and play. So COVID-19 trips all of that up because of the safety factor.

The fact that no one responded to my query on Reeve Connect could stem from a variety of different reasons. The biggest one likely is the uncertainty facing all of us during the Summer of 2020. Majority of the country is re-opening slowly, yet there are places re-opening very quickly. No one wants to be responsible for anyone contracting the virus, let alone individuals with already compromised immune systems. So, until we know more, we will continue to play outside as a family, while keeping a positive attitude about the future of summer programming. In the meanwhile, if you know of a friend or family member with any kind of disability, please continue to check on them, communicate, reach out, offer support as these months of being isolated and feeling trapped at home have been hard on everyone.

Heather Ehrman Krill is a writer- wife- teacher-mom who lives in the White Mountains of NH with her husband, Geoff, a paraplegic and professional skier, and their two children, Carver and Greta who are 10 and 8. Please check out her novel True North, website www.heatherkrill.com, author FB page Heather Krill, and @heatherkrill1 on Twitter.

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