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Junior Wheelchair Sports Camp: ‘You feel like you belong’

When Sule Christiansen arrived for the fourth time at Junior Wheelchair Sports Camp, she once again felt welcomed.

“Everyone is so nice, and it’s a lot of fun,” said Sule, 18, who traveled from Plymouth to Grand Valley State University in Allendale. “You feel like you belong, because there are so many kids just like you and you don’t feel so different.”

Sule is among 50 campers with physical disabilities who swam and swung, danced and dodged, paddled, pedaled and laughed their way through Mary Free Bed’s Junior Wheelchair Sports Camp. The 35th annual event, held July 22-26 at GVSU, welcomed campers from across Michigan, Indiana and Ohio.

“I love camp,” said Joe Galvek, 17, of Escanaba, who celebrated his sixth time attending. “It’s the most fun I have all year.”

The week-long event offers kids of all ability levels the chance to try a dozen adaptive sports at no cost. It’s offered by Mary Free Bed Wheelchair & Adaptive Sports, one of the largest programs of its kind in the U.S.

“The opportunities our Junior Wheelchair Sports Camp offers to kids with disabilities is immeasurable,” said Maria Besta, manager of WAS and Mary Free Bed’s recreational therapy program.  “It opens the door to a world of possibilities.”

Staffed by dozens of volunteers and instructors, campers were introduced to basketball, cycling, football, frisbee golf, handball, kayaking, lacrosse, sled hockey, softball, swimming and tennis. Other highlights included a dance party, dodgeball tournament and the always popular water fight with the Allendale Fire Department.

Whether a camper is interested in pursuing a higher level of competition or simply seeking a fun physical outlet, Wheelchair Sports Camp is a chance to spend time with peers who face similar challenges and to forge lifelong friendships. Learn more about adaptive sports opportunities by visiting the Mary Free Bed Wheelchair & Adaptive Sports website here.

Wheelchair Sports Camp is made possible with support from donors, including Airway Oxygen, Bill and Paul’s Sporthaus, CareLink, Family Fair, Fusion Medical, Kentwood Parks and Recreation, Mobility Sports, Per4Max, Saladin Shriners and SpartanNash.

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