Bart Adaptive Sports delivers accessible recreation opportunities Author Isabel Wissner - Bennington Banner
MANCHESTER — “The only limits that people have are limits they set themselves,” says Joe Hurley, Executive Director of Bart J. Ruggerie Adaptive Sports Center.
The Sports Center provides an opportunity for children, adults and veterans with physical and cognitive disabilities to enjoy outdoor sports, including skiing, snowboarding, golf, cycling and more. The center was created in honor of Ruggerie, a ski enthusiast who was killed in the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on New York City’s Twin Towers.
“A lot of times with adaptive [sports], there’s a saying that ‘If I can do this, I can do anything,” said Hurley.
“For them to be able to get on a bike and conquer three miles around, it may lead them to say, ‘Gee, if I went to work a couple times a week, I can do this because I can ride a bike. I can do this.”
The father and daughter duo — Betsy Hurley who was born and raised in Bennington, is an administrative assistant at the program — who lead the program arrive at Dana Thompson Park in the morning with a trailer filled with a variety of adaptive, hand and foot-powered cycles.
Kieran, a participant in the program, began attending the Adaptive Sports program seven years ago.
“When he started, he was riding back and forth in the parking lot,” said Joe Hurley. These days, he can do two entire laps around the Dana Thompson Park on a TerraTrike. With the help of volunteers, Kieran has also been able to participate in standup skiing, as well.
“One of our largest challenges is making sure we can get enough volunteers,” said Betsy Hurley.
Volunteers are a vital part of the program – the program currently has about 75 volunteers who are critical in providing supervision, lessons, and support to participants.
Another participant on Tuesday morning, Lydia, biked around on a standup mountain bicycle, with volunteer Hope following closely behind, both seeming to enjoy the silence and sunny morning at the park.
Participants come to the program for a variety of reasons, including for fun, strength-building, confidence and community.
“For some, it’s about the camaraderie of seeing the same people every week and seeing peers,” said Betsy Hurley.
“Some of them stay connected,” added Joe Hurley.
The Bart Adaptive Sports Center was born 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, like Bart did at Bromley, after they saw me sitting inside waiting for my dad to finish up another lesson he was teaching,” said Betsy Hurley.
She has competed in many sports, including Alpine Skiing in The World Games in 2000 in Anchorage, Alaska, winning a bronze medal for the USA. She was inducted into the New England Wheelchair Hall of Fame in 2007.
The Bart Adaptive Sports Center’s current Summer Program meets on Tuesdays in Manchester and Thursday in Bennington from 10 a.m. to noon.
The 13th Annual No Limits Golf Tournament is Sept. 19 at the Stratton Mountain Golf Course.
For more information visit their website www.bartadaptive.org or reach out via email firstname.lastname@example.org.