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Special Tree’s Adaptive Sports Experience Shows What’s Possible After Life-Altering Injury

Once an avid golfer, Gerry hadn’t touched a golf club since a spinal cord injury left him in a wheelchair six years ago.  But all that changed when he picked up an adaptive golf club at Special Tree’s Adaptive Sports Experience on June 28th at Willow Metropark.

“I can still swing and miss,” he said with a chuckle.  But there was much more to Gerry’s swing than hitting the ball.  “Instead of focusing on what I can’t do, I’m here to see what I can do,” he said.  

Helping Gerry and others to see what’s possible after a life-changing injury is what the Adaptive Sports Experience is all about says Recreational Therapist Kristin Claerhout.  The annual free event is organized by Special Tree’s Recreational Therapy team to showcase outdoor activities that can be adapted to accommodate all ability levels. 

“A lot of people feel like their lives are over after a catastrophic injury,” said Kristin.  “People might have to do an activity a little differently, but they can still enjoy an active lifestyle.  It’s really eye-opening for participants to find that joy and quality of life again and to participate in things they enjoyed before their injury.”

This year’s event drew over 100 participants from Special Tree and the Metro Detroit area and featured adaptive kayaking, biking, golf, fishing, tennis, and yoga.   Recreational Therapists, volunteers, and representatives from Riverside Kayak Connection and Michigan Adaptive Sports who provided adaptive equipment, all provided hands-on instruction and support throughout the day to help participants safely enjoy the event.  

"The event was a lot of fun," said Gerry, who also rode an adaptive bike, went kayaking, and caught two fish.  

 “Participation in sports and other recreational activities becomes as much about regaining confidence as it is about working on functional skills and rebuilding physical strength,” said Kristen.  "Our goal for the event is to help people get that confidence back into their personal lives and encourage them to try more activities."