By Melissa Grappone
Holbrook, New York, September 26 – This past weekend, World T.E.A.M. Sports (WTS) supported its fourth Adventure Team Challenge (ATC) at New York’s Frost Valley YMCA with The Center for Discovery (The Center). The weather, though tenuous at times, held up throughout most of the weekend, allowing for all five stages of the event — biking, a coaches’ tower climbing challenge, rowing on Lake Cole, an orienteering course, a climb up Slide Mountain and a relay race — to be completed.
Officiated by American Portfolios Financial Services, Inc. (APFS), a major sponsor of WTS and The Center, 20 athletes were supported by 35 coaches and 30 volunteers that were divided into five teams (Red Tide, Blue Steel, Green Gators, Orange Crush and Yellow Jackets). Additionally, participating in this year’s ATC at Frost Valley were retired Air Force veteran Larry Gunter, who served as a coach. Gunter participated in the 2012 Sea to Shining Sea (S2SS) ride and has been legally blind for many years. Also participating were volunteer and quadriplegic George Taborsky, who has been participating in the Face of America (FOA) bike rides for the last three years; and volunteer Chris Levi, a former Army Ranger and wounded warrior — a double-amputee from the mid-thighs down — who participated in his first FOA this past April.
Located in Harris, New York, The Center is a community of children and adults with severe disabilities, medical frailties and Autism Spectrum Disorders. Since the inaugural Adventure Team Challenge in 2010, it has become part of The Center’s culture and is an eagerly anticipated event. To assure that as many residents as possible from the community are offered an opportunity to participate, every year a new group of athletes are selected and trained over several months with their aides and counselors to prepare for a full, active weekend of outdoor challenges.
The games began shortly after the opening ceremonies on Thursday afternoon, September 19, at The Center. First was a bike challenge that had all five teams riding around the oval track behind the Wellness Center. Cheering on the teams from the sidelines were past participants from previous Challenges.
ATC’s second day started bright and early to get ahead of potentially bad weather that was thought to arrive later in the day. Competition began with the customary coaches’ climbing tower challenge at The Center, followed that afternoon with a boating challenge on Lake Cole at Frost Valley. Row boats were retrofitted with special seats for wheelchair-bound and medically-fragile athletes to experience the rowing movement of gliding across water by their own efforts with some assistance from their coaches. The day’s activities finished with five distinct and vibrant flocks of athletes, coaches and volunteers sporting their team colors, and meandering their way through Frost Valley’s vast acreage in search of clues for completion of the orienteering challenge.
Saturday’s competition began at the crack of dawn with the ascent of Slide Mountain, the Catskill Mountains’ tallest peak at 4,180 feet. Five athletes from three teams, along with their WTS and Center coaches, left the trailhead at the base of Slide Mountain at 7:15 a.m. Unfortunately, owing to unforeseen circumstances, after about 45 minutes into the climb, two of the five teams had to return to the base of the mountain. The remaining two athletes and their coaches continued their ascent and reached the summit at 9:45 a.m.; among them was coach and retired Air Force veteran Larry Gunter, who is legally blind. A minimal amount of time was spent at the summit due to heavy, windy weather conditions, followed by a descent that took nearly three hours. For the coaches, however, the challenge was not fulfilled until they completed a six-mile bike ride back to Frost Valley in a race to the finish. Converging with the relay challenge already under way, quadriplegic George Taborsky and Chris Levi were transported to the base of Slide Mountain so they could participate in the coaches’ bike ride on their recumbents; both Levi and Taborsky cruised along winding country roads, coasting into Frost Valley for a tight finish; among all riders on the course, Levi came in first.
An awards ceremony attended by all participants, as well as several parents and family members of the athletes who made a special trip up to Frost Valley to witness the physical accomplishments – while effortless for many — of their disabled children, capped off the 2013 ATC at Frost Valley. The inclusion of disabled veterans George Taborsky, Chris Levi and Larry Gunter made it that much more special and particularly moving for two volunteers from Independent Group Home Living Program who committed along with their organization to participate in future World T.E.A.M. Sports events.
Melissa Grappone serves as the Vice President of Corporate Communications for American Portfolios Financial Services, Inc.