Saturday, September 13, 2008

Helping Kids With Disabilities


About two and a half years ago, Robb was working in the theater department of the University of California. He was working with a student, taking down some fluorescent fixtures. Apparently, the light they were moving was hung in a non-conventional manner, and as they were de-installing it, the entire unit broke loose from their control, and swung directly at the face of the student worker.

Robb did what anyone would have done: he pounced on the light, and in doing so, disrupted the balance of his ladder, and fell to the ground. He landed on a concrete floor, shattered one of his vertebrae and suffered a paralyzing spinal cord injury.

His career as an actor and scenic artist ended abruptly that morning.

Luckily, we live in a part of the country that understands that a disabled person should have the chance to live a full, fun, adventure-filled life. And that's what Robb and I have been trying to do, since the time of his accident. Shortly after Robb got out of the hospital, we discovered the Bay Area Outreach Recreation Program (BORP), whose mission is to offer sports and recreational opportunities for people with disabilities. It was through BORP that we realized that Robb could continue many of the outdoorsy activities that he and I had enjoyed prior to his accident. Among its many other programs, BORP maintains a "lending library" of cycles adapted for use by people with disabilities. We started out riding BORP's adaptive trikes, and eventually got one our own.

Since this time, Robb has cycled over thirteen hundred miles, which is amazingly great for a guy who can't walk particularly well. Not only is this a total blast, it is also highly therapeutic. Rhythmic repetitive movement seems to help regenerate damaged neurological connections, both for sensory and motor neurons.

As our way of expressing our gratitude for everyone who has helped us since the accident, we participate in BORP's annual fundraising ride, the Revolution. You should see this event! Blind cyclists ride tandem bikes with their friends. Paralyzed kids zoom around on pint-sized hand cycles. Legless athletes blast through the hundred-mile course, leaving slugs like me to eat their dust.

It's awesome!


Let us tell you a little more about BORP, particularly its work with disabled kids.

BORP’s website states that it “uses sports, recreation & outdoor adventures to build educated, productive citizens, one life at a time.”


Okay, that sounds good, but what does that mean?

Well, the statistics for young people with disabilities are grim, and BORP aims to do something about that.

Disabled kids are twice as likely to be depressed, commit suicide, and use alcohol or drugs than their able bodied peers. 28% of disabled Americans drop out of high school, and of those who graduate only 20% manage to get a college degree. A staggering 73% of disabled Americans are unemployed.

By contrast, 100% of BORP participants have graduated from high school in the past eleven years, and 80% either have university degrees, or are in college now. Over 80% of these college grads are employed.


So, how does it work? Why do BORP participants succeed?

While studies have shown conclusively that kids who participate in sports and outdoor adventures have better grades and better habits, there’s more to the picture than a bunch of kids in wheelchairs, playing basketball, or riding bikes.

BORP works closely with participants, their families, schools, and service providers, providing strong, weekly support from disabled role models. Where possible, kids start with BORP at the age of 5, and stay with their programs until they are 18. BORP asks a lot of their participants, and – given support and mentoring-- the kids are able to meet those expectations.


We’re asking our blog readers to help us support this great organization. In a tangible sense, the money goes to run recreational programs for kids (and adults) with disabilities. But in a deeper way, it helps give disabled people the skills and confidence to face life’s challenges, and to have fun while doing so.

And it works. Instead of being the stereotypical "burden to society," BORP graduates overcome tremendous hurdles and lead full productive lives.

Thank you for considering a gift to BORP, and please, please, please be careful on ladders!



ASL Girl said...

As a person with a disability who has recently been reading about BORP (and faithfully reads all your other blogs too!!!), I have to say that what you are doing is wonderful!!!!!!!!! BORP sounds like a wonderful organization! I know that if I did not become involved in social activities and make friends in the community, I would probably not be as happy and as active as I am today. Not to mention if I hadn't discovered Letterboxing, I would be missing on meeting a great bunch of people, both through AtlasQuest/Letterboxing NorthAmerica, and also through meetings and events I've attended.
Keep up the great blogging!

ASL Girl

Anonymous said...

Those statistics on the difference in graduation rates are just staggering!

-Mama Bear of 3Bears


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