MANCHESTER – “The only limits people have are limits they set for themselves,” says Joe Hurley, executive director of the Bart J. Ruggerie Adaptive Sports Center.
The sports center offers children, adults and veterans with physical and cognitive disabilities the opportunity to enjoy outdoor sports such as skiing, snowboarding, golf, biking and more. The center was built in honor of Ruggerie, a ski enthusiast who was killed on September 11, 2001 in the attack on New York City’s Twin Towers.
“Often with adaptive [sports]There’s a saying, “If I can do this, I can do anything,” Hurley said.
“For them to be able to get on a bike and go three miles around, it can lead them to be like, ‘Oh my gosh, if I go to work a few times a week I can do that, because I can ride a bike. I can do this.”
The father-daughter duo – Betsy Hurley, born and raised in Bennington, is an administrative assistant for the program – who runs the program arrives in the morning with a trailer equipped with a variety of adaptive hand- and foot-powered cycles.
Kieran, a participant in the program, began participating in the Adaptive Sports program seven years ago.
“When he first started, he would drive back and forth in the parking lot,” said Joe Hurley. Today he can complete two full laps of Dana Thompson Park on a TerraTrike. With the help of volunteers, Kieran was also able to take part in stand-up skiing.
“One of our biggest challenges is making sure we get enough volunteers,” said Betsy Hurley.
Volunteers are an important part of the program – the program currently has approximately 75 volunteers who are vital in providing supervision, instruction and support to participants.
Another Tuesday morning participant, Lydia, pedaled around on a stand-up mountain bike, closely followed by volunteer Hope, both of whom seemed to be enjoying the stillness and sunny morning at the park.
Participants come to the program for a variety of reasons, including fun, strength building, confidence, and community.
“For some, it’s about the camaraderie of meeting the same people and peers every week,” said Betsy Hurley.
“Some of them stay connected,” added Joe Hurley.
The Bart Adaptive Sports Center was founded when Ruggerie’s family approached Joe Hurley about starting a program for people with disabilities to learn to ski at Bromley Mountain.
“His family wanted to make it so that people with disabilities had the same opportunity to ski that Bart did in Bromley after they saw me sitting inside waiting for my dad to finish another lesson he was teaching,” said Betsy Hurley .
She has competed in many sports, including alpine skiing at the 2000 World Games in Anchorage, Alaska, winning a bronze medal for USA. In 2007 she was inducted into the New England Wheelchair Hall of Fame.
The Bart Adaptive Sports Center current summer program meets on Tuesdays in Manchester and Thursdays in Bennington from 10am-12pm.
The 13th Annual No Limits Golf Tournament will be held on September 19th at Stratton Mountain Golf Course.
For more information, visit www.bartadaptive.org or email [email protected].