Kids train for disability championship

May 17, 2010 8:51:10 AM PDT
For the first time a number of children with disabilities from Chicago Public Schools are getting a chance to learn competitive sports. Many will participate in next weekend's Great Lakes Regional Games.

Students who do well will qualify for a national event, which will be held in Chicago this summer.

This is a wonderful opportunity for children with disabilities. Many of them have never taught sport activities due to their disabilities.

At Farnsworth School on Chicago's North Side, blind and visually impaired elementary-age students are trained for track and field events.

"This is the first time they've been with coaches who understand disability and who are prepared to train them for competition," said Pam Redding, director of World Sport Chicago.

World Sport Chicago funds these sport programs.

"Our mission is to engage all Chicago's children in sports, and that includes children who have physical or visual disabilities," said Redding. "We're partnering with Great Lakes Adaptive Sports to provide these instructors and coaches to work with the kids here at Farnsworth to teach them more about running and throwing field implements."

The athletes who are eligible for this competition are between the ages of 7 and 21.

"The kids here at Farnsworth are hoping to take the first step toward the National Junior Disability Championship, and the first step is the regional competition which is coming up," Redding said.

Twelve-year-old Nadia is training for running, jumping and throwing events.

"I want to do it because I enjoy running," Nadia said.

Andrew Martinez is 13 years old. In addition to his visual impairment, he had a stroke. He is trying out for every event, but like Nadia, running is his first choice.

"Because I feel like I have the strength to run a lot," said Andrew.

Teacher Bob Chada says they have 15 students who are part of this program.

"We've seen lots of improvements in their self-esteem, their overall fitness," said Chada. "We don't really get a lot of opportunities to get funding for a program like this, and we're so grateful for World Sport Chicago to come into our school and provide this type of program for our students."

"We're hopeful that by getting kids started younger and younger, they'll have an understanding that just because they have a disability doesn't mean they can't be active," said Redding.

The Great Lakes Regional Games are being held at Vernon Hills High School next weekend. The National Junior Disability Championships will be held July 17 - 25 in Chicago. For more information go to www.worldsportchicago.org and www.glasa.org.


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