Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Freedom and Speed

The following is a Guest Post from Alejandra Taco. She is a Nutrition Coach and Founder of Holistic Health Empowerment (www.holistichealthempowerment.com) who has, in the last few years, discovered the fun and health benefits of adaptive recreation through Piers Point Sailing, participating in the Boston Marathon, and DCR's Universal Access Program. Thanks Alejandra, for sharing your words and experience!

Sports to me were for the able bodied. Growing up with cerebral palsy and using a wheelchair meant that sports were not for me. I would tell myself that if I could walk I would have a more active life. That all changed when I got invited to go sailing for the first time.

On my 24th birthday I had the opportunity to sail with Maureen McKinnon-Tucker, a gold medalist in sailing at the 2008 Paralympics in China. It was my first taste of adaptive sports and meeting Maureen opened my world to endless possibilities. The moment we left our chairs behind and got on the boat my perspective of what was possible for me changed. A sense of freedom took over as I experienced the thrill of speed which I love! Watching Maureen sail and be in control of the boat showed me that sports could be part of my life as well. This inspired me to find out what other adaptive sports were out there for me to try.

Growing up in Boston and going to see the marathon each year always stirred something inside me, making me want to be part of it someday. That dream became a reality in 2010! With the support of my family and the guidance of three wheelchair racers I embarked on one of my biggest challenges. With very little training and not much time on my side everyone thought I was a bit crazy but supported me anyway. On May 19, 2010, I raced 11 miles of the Boston marathon. It was an experience that I will never forget showing me what I was capable of.

My adventures didn’t stop there, when I found out about DCR’s Universal Access Program and their adaptive skating program in Revere. I decided to give it a try and see what it was all about. Marcy and Heidi welcomed me with open arms, and the next thing I knew I was on a sled with short hockey sticks skating! It took three sessions for me to get the hang of it and I felt free once again, to go as fast as my arms could take me! What I love about the program is the way it connects me with others just like me - people who are looking to feel normal for a day and enjoy themselves. The activities include everyone no matter what your disability is. I wanted to do more so I decided to become a mentor for the program so I could share my experience with others and tell them that sports are for everyone.

As a nutrition and health coach, I help people improve their eating habits and teach the importance of physical activities. Not only do they help us be healthy but they empower us to believe in ourselves and know that we are capable of accomplishing far more things than what society expects from us. Once I leave my wheelchair and transfer to a boat, a racer, a sled skate, or a sit-ski I leave the cerebral palsy behind and feel like any other athlete.

My next stop was skiing and once again I fell I love with it! Brenda from Outdoor Access greeted me with a funny hat and a big smile. She helped me into a sit-ski and taught me all I need to know about skiing that day. With the help of great volunteers I took to the snow at the Weston Ski track. I’ve been skiing two years now and it’s the best part of my winters. Another great thing about these programs is that you don’t need to have any prior experience or skills, all you need is to show up, and they will take care of you by adapting to your needs. The important thing is to have fun, and if you fall try, try again.

In Universal Access programs I skate, ski, hike, sail and much more. In the end I didn’t need to walk to enjoy sports and the thrill of speed. All I needed was to meet the right group friends and mentors and the right toys!

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