The clinics introduce children 18 years and younger with physical and intellectual disabilities to wheelchair basketball, hockey, power soccer, wheelchair tennis, baseball and wheelchair rugby, run from March 14 through Oct. 24 at the all-abilities fitness center, located at 5031 E. Washington St. in Phoenix, near the 50th Street Metro Light Rail station.
Two different sports, taught by current adaptive-sports competitors, are scheduled one Saturday a month. Young athletes learn skills in the individual sports and try out specialty wheelchairs and equipment used in competition. Lunch is served at every clinic.
Max in Motion is a Valley-based nonprofit that provides youth sports opportunities for children in low-income communities and those with physical or intellectual disabilities. The program is named in memory of Max Shacknai, a talented young athlete who lost his life in an accident in July 2011. Max did not have disabilities, but his father, Jonah Shacknai, the millionaire founder of a pharmaceutical company, wanted to honor his son by helping other children.
“Seeing these young people experience sports they never thought they would ever be able to play is incredibly exciting and remarkably compelling,” said Ability360 Sports & Fitness Center Vice President and General Manager Gus LaZear, in a statement. “The impact is not only on the kids, but on their parents and family. It’s a wonderful program.”
2020 Max in Motion clinics will be held on the following Saturdays:
- March 14: Power soccer and wheelchair softball
- April 18: Power soccer and wheelchair basketball
- May 16: Power soccer and wheelchair tennis
- June 20: Power soccer and wheelchair golf
- July 11: Power soccer and wheelchair softball
- Aug. 15: Power soccer and wheelchair basketball
- Sept. 19: Power soccer and wheelchair tennis
- Oct. 24: Power soccer and wheelchair golf
The program is free, but registration is required at ability360.org.
Adaptive sports offer camaraderie and confidence
Editor’s note: The following information was adapted from an August 2018 story by RAK contributor Margaret Beardsley.
It’s all about turning “I can’t” into “I can.” That’s a powerful message for kids with special needs. And it’s the message behind the mission of the Ability360 Sports & Fitness Center in Phoenix, which provides all sorts of adaptive sports programs to Arizona children and adults with disabilities.
It was so important to Jackie Mancuso that she moved her family from Nebraska to Arizona specifically so her daughter Layla, who has cerebral palsy, could participate in Ability360 programs.
She wanted Layla to “formulate dreams that she might not have even been able to have” and be around other people who have “her same kind of struggles” but also have jobs and Olympic medals.
Sports kids can try at Ability360 swimming, rock climbing and wheelchair basketball, hockey, baseball, tennis, golf and power soccer.
“The fact that they can come together and participate in group settings, be active, build camaraderie and learn a sport is so beneficial,” says program director Sara Bright. For parents, getting to see their child with special needs participate in a group sport can be a moving experience.
“Then you have the social aspect of families getting together!” adds Bright. The center offers affordable fitness memberships to all members of the family and hosts special events like Family Hockey Night.
As a Navy veteran who suffers from PTSD, Mancuso says socializing can be difficult for families in her situation. “I’m a loner, and don’t really talk to anyone — especially people who have the kiddos who run around [without disabilities]. That’s an emotional thing for me. So having a place where I’ve met parents who are going through the same thing as me … we are not the same, but we can bounce ideas off each other, and if we are having a bad day we can call each other and have that support system. I don’t need a solution, I just need an ear.”
For access to other Ability360 programming, individuals or families can become members and take advantage of workout rooms, training programs and fitness classes at daily drop-in, monthly and annual pricing options. An annual family membership is $612.
“A lot of times these kids hear the word ‘no’ a lot. ‘You can’t participate in this, sorry,’ ” Bright explains. “But here, with our equipment — including specialized wheelchairs and coaches who understand them — it’s a whole new opportunity. In the future they know, ‘I am able to do this.’ ”