Expanding the Realm with World T.E.A.M. Sports

By Richard Rhinehart

Holbrook, New York, December 28, 2012
– For the Holbrook, New York-based non-profit World T.E.A.M. Sports, the year 2012 will be remembered as an eventful year by participating athletes, volunteers, staff, sponsors and supporters.

Lake Tahoe Tunnel

The Sea to Shining Sea team ride through a tunnel at Lake Tahoe. Photograph by Parker Feierbach.

Founded in 1993 following a successful cross-country bicycle ride and a climb of Africa’s Kilimanjaro by the disabled, World T.E.A.M. Sports creates inclusive sporting events that bring together persons with disabilities with those who are able-bodied. The inspiration of these events – creating challenges that require teamwork and mutual support to succeed – is unique.

The two month Sea to Shining Sea ride, in which 14 disabled veterans and two pilots for blind riders crossed the North American continent, provided the organization with a high profile event that illustrated the nature of World T.E.A.M. Sports events. Traveling across the country during one of the hottest summers in recent history, the riders found the determination and the dedication to pedal through sweltering heat to their afternoon destination. With high temperatures exceeding 110 degrees during the ride’s transit from eastern Colorado to Ohio, riders found themselves starting before dawn and completing the day’s ride by early afternoon. Along their nearly 4,000 mile journey, the team visited with veterans and disabled organizations, providing an example of what is possible by persons with disabilities. In St. Louis, the team rode in the Veiled Prophet Parade on Independence Day, before an audience in the tens of thousands and live regional television coverage.

Face of America 2012 Start

Riders begin the journey from Arlington, Virginia to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania during the 2012 Face of America ride. Photograph by Richard Rhinehart.

For those participating in the April Face of America bike ride, cooperation and support is a fundamental part of its ongoing success. America’s disabled veterans are honored by this annual ride from Arlington to Gettysburg, and whether they rode bicycles, hand cycles or recumbent bikes, they found a helping hand when needed. Riders no doubt recall this April’s early morning departure from Frederick, as it was one of the ride’s most memorable. With a thick gray fog smothering the quiet streets of the city, the dreamlike atmosphere melted away as the rising sun warmed the day, revealing the brilliantly green Maryland countryside. Arriving to the fanfare of Gettysburg, the riders participated in an emotional ceremony in which Linda Bell, the wife of the late host Cpl. Seamus Garrahy, received a commemorative flag in her husband’s honor.

Less than a month later, in western Colorado’s high red rock desert, 70 participants gathered to compete in the annual Adventure TEAM Challenge. Spring can be unsettled in the Colorado Plateau, with wildly changeable weather. The 2012 Challenge began with a sudden windstorm blowing dust and sand through the remote Rabbit Valley camp, reminding participants of Hollywood movies about the Sahara Desert. Once competition was underway, however, weather concerns faded, and teams grew close to undertake shared challenges. From mountain biking to river rafting to climbing and rappelling, the Challenge required the inclusive teams of five athletes to join together to successfully complete the course. Although Team Lumber Liquidators won their fourth consecutive Adventure TEAM Challenge title, all teams finished, a significant accomplishment for all.

Skiing at Snowbird

A veteran with disabilities learns to ski at the Snowbird event in late February. Photograph by Kimberly Warpinski.

In north central Utah’s snowy Wasatch Mountains, a team of 15 disabled military veterans from eight states gathered in late February for a winter sports adventure. Participating in World T.E.A.M. SportsSoldiers to the Summit at Snowbird event, the veterans enjoyed skiing and snowboarding at the mountain resort southeast of Salt Lake City. For some of the veterans, it was their first experience on snow. For others, it was a return to recreational sport after their experiences in the battlegrounds of the Middle East.

Each April, The Bush Center’s Military Service Initiative welcomes a group of disabled military veterans from the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars to an extended weekend of mountain bicycling in west Texas. President George W. Bush rides with the veterans, serving as both the host and the ride leader. World T.E.A.M. Sports is one of four participating non-profit organizations to send athletes to the Warrior 100K event. In 2012, six veterans from California, Nebraska, Washington and North Carolina were invited by World T.E.A.M. Sports to travel to scenic Palo Duro Canyon State Park near Amarillo to ride with other veterans and the President.

Boston Celtics Challenge

Young players with and without disabilities play in the November Boston Celtics Challenge. Photograph courtesy Ultimate Sports Program.

For children with disabilities, World T.E.A.M. Sports continued its long history of support in 2012 through select partnerships. In June, the organization partnered with American Portfolios to support the inclusive Adventure Team Challenge at Frost Valley in New York’s Catskill Mountains. The weekend offered young participants challenging hikes, bicycle rides and canoeing. In partnership with Ultimate Sports Program and the Boston Celtics, two on-court experiences at Boston’s TD Garden in 2012 gave young disabled and able-bodied basketball players game time on the fabled parquet court before enthusiastic NBA audiences.

Throughout 2012, World T.E.A.M. Sports received exceptional recognition from local, regional and national media. The release of two feature film documentaries featuring past events permitted receptive audiences to learn more about the remarkable athletes who participate in the organization’s many events. Media also featured reports, photographs, audio and video about World T.E.A.M. Sports events and athletes.

World T.E.A.M. Sports is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2013 through exceptional national events. Continued support through participation, sponsorship, volunteering and donations will help improve the lives of an expanding team of disabled Americans in 2013 and beyond.

Teams climb a hill

Climbing a hill at the 2012 Adventure TEAM Challenge was an early test for teams. Photograph by Richard Rhinehart.