QoL spotlight - Therapeutic Adventures

Posted by Reeve Staff in Daily Dose on July 04, 2019 # Quality of Life

Inspired by pioneers in adaptive sports development and driven by his calling to help people living with disabilities, Mark Andrews launched Therapeutic Adventures ~ IndependencePlus Adaptive Sports almost 40 years ago.

“In graduate school at the University of Virginia, my thesis research was the effects of health sports on the psycho-social adjustment of traumatic spinal cord injury patients,” said Andrews who earned a masters in adaptive physical education in 1983. “Our results revealed that active participation in adaptive sports and other related therapeutic activities help persons with paralysis to learn important skills and behaviors enabling them to become more confident, to make positive lifestyle changes, and to improve functional independence.”

One of less than a dozen regional spinal cord injury (SCI) centers across the country in the 1980s, the University of Virginia SCI unit had a special grant to facilitate recreational services for individuals to participate in activities both inside and outside the rehabilitation hospital setting.

“As a function of the grant, my job was to provide recreational programs in the rehabilitation setting and to integrate patients into the community,” said Andrews. “As many of our patients were young males, they were most excited about doing high-risk adventure activities. I would take them rock climbing and skiing, and we probably created one of the first adaptive sailing programs in the country. In many ways, we were ahead of our time.”

When the grant was no longer available, Andrews created Therapeutic Adventures which has become a leading provider of adaptive sports and adaptive outdoor adventures for disabled athletes throughout the mid-Atlantic region and beyond.

“Our programs and events are comprised of adaptive camps, adaptive sports clinics, therapeutic retreats, races, and volunteer service projects,” said Andrews, Therapeutic Adventures executive director and only employee. “We have served more than 3,500 clients, providing 15,000 lessons. We have trained and supported 2,500+ volunteers who have provided more than 60,000 hours of service.”

One of the organization’s signature activities is running Massanutten Adaptive Snow Sports in McGaheysville, VA, which is now in its 38th season. From December thru mid-March, volunteers provide adaptive skiing and snowboarding every weekend and by appointment during the week. Partial to full scholarships are available to all athletes and no one is denied the opportunity to participate for financial reasons.

“As persons with paralysis snow ski and learn new skills with our winter program, it is very important for them to experience different types of equipment,” said Andrews. In 2018, Therapeutic Adventures received a Reeve Foundation Quality of Life grant to purchase several types of the newest, state-of-the-art adaptive ski equipment including an Enabling Technologies Snow Slider and Dynamique Adult Bi-ski as well as a Hands On Concepts Adult and Youth Glide Bi-ski.

“Therapeutic Adventures is both honored and grateful to receive this quality of life grant from the Reeve Foundation,” said Andrews. “The new adaptive snow sports equipment will enable us to better serve individuals of all ages who live with paralysis. Until we find a cure, people need to learn to be as functionally independent as possible. Our adaptive snow sports programs help people push the envelope and improve their overall quality of life.”

In February 2019, the new equipment was used for Operation Freedom Outdoors (OFO), a Therapeutic Adventures’ no-cost adaptive sports weekend program for disabled military veterans. David Sapp was one of the OFO volunteers.

“The professional adaptive instructions given by Therapeutic Adventures were world class and we are all very humble to have been led by such a great group of volunteers,” said Sapp. “This was truly a life-changing event for all of us. We have created some new memories and we all hope that will continue for life.”

Andrews feels blessed by all the wonderful connections he’s made and the opportunity to pursue his life’s mission.

“The Reeve Foundation has enabled us to continue to build our outreach to have an even bigger impact,” said Andrews. “It is wonderful that the Foundation can use their influence to help smaller grassroots organizations like Therapeutic Adventures make a direct impact for people in their communities.”