- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
A new club, inspired by Kayla Woolridge, gave locals a day of self-accomplishment when they came out to Great Mills High School.
The St. Mary’s County Department of Recreation and Parks and Paralympic Sport Club Southern Maryland hosted “A Paralympic Experience” on Saturday.
The day offered individuals with physical and visual disabilities a chance to experience sports that they normally wouldn’t have the opportunity to experience.
Athletes could experience cycling around the Great Mills track, shooting and swimming. Vendors such as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes were present in support.
As of today, the International Paralympics Committee has approved a total of 20 sports for summer competition and 500 events.
According to its website, Paralympic Sport Club Southern Maryland is a self-supporting, community-based sports club designed to involve both youth and adults with physical and visual disabilities in ongoing sports and physical activity, regardless of skill level and age.
Christina Bishop is a therapeutic recreation specialist and ADA coordinator for St. Mary’s County and is the new club’s administrator.
Bishop is passionate about the new club and hopes that injured military personnel would find it to be a welcoming place. Bishop said that the club has rejuvenated her and inspired her after 13 years of working with the department.
“The energy that has come from this is amazing,” Bishop said, “and especially with our focus being on our wounded warriors, it’s wonderful.”
Rocco Aiello, coordinator for adapted physical education and corollary sports for St. Mary’s County Public Schools, was on site guiding parents and interested individuals with local and regional information.
Woolridge is now a freshman at Great Mills. She was born with spina bifida and relies on a wheelchair.
Woolridge is a competitive swimmer and said she will be swimming for the Hornets in the winter. She is currently swimming for the Chesapeake Bay Aquatic Club and has a meet coming up in the next week and aspires to compete in the U.S. Paralympics in the future.
“I’m having fun,” said Woolridge, who was at the event with her parents Randy and Gina. “I hit like all of the targets today. I’d just like to get the word out more so more people join the club.”
Hughesville resident and double amputee Wardell Swann spoke to the crowd. Swann was diagnosed with a bacterial infection and was told that both legs needed to be amputated as well as nine fingers.
Within six months of his procedure, Wardell was competing in the Paralympics. In 2001, he founded Amputees Helping Amputees, a support group for those with limb loss.
“I think the program itself is nice, and it’s definitely due time for something like this in the county,” Swann said. “One way it can be successful is getting the community involved and another is the businesses with the economy can definitely benefit. With the military personnel coming back and the base here.”
Marykate Werkheiser was out with her 10-year-old son Daniel, who has a form of dwarfism.
“I was excited to hear about the group,” Marykate Werkheiser said, “and we called the director and signed up. Daniel is very competitive and really enjoys riding the bikes. I think the club is a wonderful opportunity for him to compete.”
John Mountjoy, president of the Sanner Lake Sportsman Club in Great Mills, was on site assisting with target shooting. The club is now in the process of making its grounds more assessable to those with disabilities.
“What we’re doing is bringing the club into the 21st century in terms of club design and making it ADA compliant,” Mountjoy said. “We are a private club so we know we don’t have to but when we brought this up to the club [supporting the Paralympics], the members voted unanimously to support it. I think it was the only time in the history of Sanner’s Lake to vote unanimously on anything and we’ve been a club since 1951.”
Mountjoy said they are modifying the shooting benches so that they are wheelchair accessible. Mountjoy has also teamed up with the Wounded Warrior Project and will be planning more outings in the future. The matches at the club are open to the public. For more information call 301-848-0206.
“Kayla [Woolridge] shot a couple weeks ago and initially was shooting shotgun,” Mountjoy said, “but the gun didn’t fit her and that’s important, but by the time she left, she was dusting the target and the smile on her face you couldn’t have taken it with a belt sander, so we’re embracing this. A lot of us really enjoy teaching.”
“I couldn’t be more pleased with how the day went,” Bishop said.
For more information on Paralympic Sport Club Southern Maryland, call Bishop at 301-475-4200 ext. 1802.