The Paralympic Experience 2015: Competition and Fun

By Joe Walsh, Founder and President, Adaptive Sports NE

softballOn June 20th, the sounds of pick-up basketball, rowing ergs, and trash talking eight year-olds rose above the hum at Newton North High School. On the basketball court, prosthetic legs and day use wheelchairs sat idle while players wove up and down practicing a drill. Cheers erupted when a beginner rolled the ball up from the floor on his wheel. The tiny orange wheelchair of a second-grader kept a significant lead on one of the 6’6” Gentle Giant Moving volunteers. Shoe-horned into a sport wheelchair and laboring to control his laughter, the volunteer knew he wasn’t going to catch the more experienced competitor.

This was the Summer 2015 Paralympic Experience. Spaulding Adaptive Sports Centers, Community Rowing, South Boston and Dorchester Boys & Girls Clubs, and Youth Enrichment Services (YES) shared information on where, when and how to play locally. There were clinics in wheelchair track, basketball, and softball, running, soccer, beep baseball, rowing, boccia and golf. Medal winning swimmers from the London 2012 Paralympic Games signed autographs, took pictures, and promoted a Paralympic Sport Club (PSC) swimming initiative that will launch in September. Paralympians Joe LeMar, Cheri Blauwet, and Joe Quintanilla introduced participants to running and wheelchair racing for the first time. They also managed workouts for athletes preparing for the International Wheelchair and Ambulatory Sports Junior World Games and the National Junior Disability Championships.

With its numerous co-hosts, Adaptive Sports New England coordinated the Summer 2015 Paralympic Experience. Adaptive Sports NE was formed in 2013 to promote participation in sports by youth and young adults who have visual or mobility impairments. Only 1250 Massachusetts students are on IEPs related to orthopedic impairments and only 550 are on IEPs related to vision impairments. School and community-based sports programs often have no experience with adaptations that can often make participation easy for students. The Paralympic Experience, PSC Boston, and Adaptive Sports New England can provide support so more kids can play more sports, more often, and closer to home.

Joe Walsh is founder and president of Adaptive Sports New England, which is based in Boston. An early beneficiary of Chapter 766, Joe is legally blind, a graduate of Dartmouth College and U. Mass Amherst, a two-time Paralympian in cross country skiing, and former Managing Director of Paralympics at the United States Olympic Committee. For more information go to, e-mail or call 617-982-2763.