Twenty-five campers are having a ball this week at Junior Wheelchair Sports Field Day, a smaller version of Mary Free Bed Wheelchair & Adaptive Sports’ annual weeklong camp for kids with disabilities. That event, held the past 35 years, was canceled for safety reasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was very important to us to offer something to restore a sense of normalcy and provide activities for our campers,” said Maria Besta, manager of the WAS program, one of the largest of its kind in the country. “And we’re experts at adapting and making things happen.”
Junior Wheelchair Sports Camp, held each July at Grand Valley State University, typically attracts more than 55 campers and is staffed by dozens of coaches and volunteers. To ensure a safe atmosphere this summer, Besta’s team of sports coordinators organized three days of activities for kids ages 7-18 of all ability levels to learn new skills or new sports. The field days, held outside at the Mary Free Bed YMCA, featured dodgeball, lacrosse, softball and tennis.
To keep numbers down, eight to nine kids participated either Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. All athletes and staff were screened, and temperatures were taken upon arrival. Masks were provided when social distancing wasn’t possible.
“We all need to socialize and continue doing things we love,” Besta said. “We just have to do it differently.”
The event was free to campers, thanks to sponsorship by Saladin Shriners.