“This is what joy feels like, this is what hope looks like!” echoes the voice of Jim Cashen, Assistant Chief of Integrated Arts at The Center for Discovery and the emcee for the weekend’s Adventure Team Challenge NY. Once you step onto the grounds of The Center for Discovery (TCFD) in Harris, New York and witness its residents tackle three different athletic challenges with beaming smiles and victorious fist-bumps, Jim’s statement rings true.
On September 8-10 2022, after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, World T.E.A.M.’s Adventure Team Challenge (ATC) hosted its 11th year at TCFD alongside its long-time partners, Lon Dolber, Vice Chairman of World T.E.A.M. and CEO, CIO of American Portfolios Financial Services Inc. (AP) and his team. Under the expert leadership and organization of Jim Cashen, Richard Humleker (VP of Campus & Community Activity), MarryAnn Rosolino, and Sandra White; and with modified programming to meet the health and safety requirements of NY state, three different groups of athletes with special needs each participated in athletic challenges over the course of three days.
The Adventure Team Challenge is well known in Colorado as World T.E.A.M’s most intense and challenging outdoor racing adventure. Dividing participants into numerous teams, athletes relied on their directional knowledge, athleticism, and teammates to cross the finish line over a three-day weekend. Both able-bodied and adaptive athletes support each other from bike rides, to white-water rafting, to mountain climbing. In 2010, Cashen, Humleker, and Dolber adapted ATC for The Center for Discovery campus in NY to engage developmentally disabled teens, young adults, and adults in an epic weekend of outdoor team sports.
Staff at World T.E.A.M. arrived in the afternoon of Thursday, September 8th, met with coaches and team members from TCFD and AP, and began preparations to welcome the athletes. After a special opening ceremony featuring a drumline performed by several of the residents, the first challenge officially began: a bike ride. Despite the athletes being the Center’s most medically frail residents, they were still given the opportunity to fully experience the thrill of riding a bike with specially made trikes and the support of their coaches and aides. The oldest participating athlete was 88 years old who rode the entire track twice. Medals were given to each athlete and the day closed with excited anticipation for the next two days.
Day two was the regatta on the lake! The most amazing thing to witness was TCFD staff lifting athletes from their chairs to be placed on the specially made row boats that carefully balanced athletes in chairs along with other rowers. TCFD staff and coaches from AP and WTS, all participated in rowing (and an improvised kayak!) these athletes around the lake in the beautiful afternoon sunshine. It was a fantastic day on the water and joy was radiating from each athlete’s face. Another memorable moment was singing “Happy Birthday” to one of the athletes as his boat was launched into the water. Just as the first day evaded, medals were presented to all participating athletes.
After the regatta, coaches from WTS and AP participated in their very own “Coach’s Challenge”: climbing a 60 ft. tower. With 37 different routes to the top, coaches learned to trust in themselves and their teammates to reach the height of the tower. After their climb, they were also introduced to the giant swing, lifting each member 60 ft into the air and releasing. Lots of fears were put to the test, but the coaches ultimately came up on top!
It was another beautiful morning for Day 3 which consisted of a two-mile hike to the Red Hill Fire Tower in Claryville, NY. Expertly led by ATC alumni athletes, the hike represented a culmination of the whole experience of ATC NY from athletes to coaches. It was an uphill climb, steep at moments, but with accomplishment, pride, and victory waiting at the top. But reaching the Fire Tower wasn’t the final destination. Several flights of stairs later led to stunning views of the Catskill Mountains, a beautiful reward for a long climb. After all the athletes had their climb, Jim presented the final medals of the weekend. There were beaming smiles all around as each athlete stepped to the platform and received their medal along with coaches who received medals of their own. The groups then made the two-mile trek back to the parking lot where the final farewells took place/
The Adventure Team Challenge NY 2022 was an inspiring and fulfilling experience. As we reflect on the weekend, we are reminded about why we do what we do here at World T.E.A.M. We are eternally grateful to The Center for Discovery and American Portfolios for inviting us into this community and to step foot into a special space where we can truly see what hope looks like!