Racquetball Equipment

A Dynamic Spirit – Santa Barbara News-Press

Junior Wheelchair Sports Camp returns after a two-year hiatus

KENNETH SONG / NEWS-PRESS PHOTOS
Participants of the junior wheelchair sports camp play a game of half-court basketball at the UCSB Recreation Center.

Dozens of enthusiastic participants turned out for the 2022 Junior Wheelchair Sports Camp, which ended Friday at the UCSB Recreation Center.

The five-day camp returned in-person after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and attendees were excited to reunite.

“I would say especially on the first day, the energy was palpable,” Rene Van Hoorn, camp director and senior recreation therapist at Cottage Rehabilitation Hospital, told News-Press.

“Children have only been able to interact virtually for the past two years. Our furthest camper this year came from Michigan. We were so grateful to be together in person. People were connecting and reconnecting. They appreciate everything we do here and being together so much.

The annual camp provides sport and recreational skill development for children, youth and young adults ages 6-21 who can use a wheelchair to participate in activities. A new young adult group has recently been added for athletes up to age 21.

A participant in a wheelchair sports camp takes on the rock climbing challenge.

The camp had 35 participants, which. although down from previous years. is still considered good, considering the impact of COVID-19.

“I always say that because we’re a hospital, we’re the last kids on the block to open up. Each participant was tested three times during the week,” Ms Van Hoorn said.

Camp activities this week ranged from beginner to advanced wheelchair sports and recreation, including rugby, basketball, tennis, handcycling, swimming, scuba diving, racquetball, power soccer, rock climbing, ropes course, dodgeball, obstacle course, baseball, dance and pickleball.

Tennis drills are part of the camp.

Other activities included a dance for the whole camp, a carnival and boxing.

“For swimming, we have individual instructors in the pool, who give basic individual lessons. For many they don’t have access to a pool, or a backyard pool is not accessible,” Ms Van Hoorn said.

She noted that there are few places in town suitable for teaching swimming to people with physical disabilities.

“For climbing, we have UCSB cords for the climbing walls and a tree climbing course with suitable equipment, including a pulley system. The camper does everything he can. The rest is done using the pulley system,” Ms Van Hoorn said.

The Junior Wheelchair Sports Camp was founded in 1986 and is the only such camp on the Central Coast. It attracts campers from all three counties and beyond, including Los Angeles and Bakersfield, and even Oregon. Camper transportation is provided free of charge from Oxnard, Santa Maria, Lompoc, Carpinteria and Santa Barbara.

“This was the 36th annual camp comprising the two virtual years,” Ms. Van Hoorn said. “The camp was started by the city of Santa Barbara in 1986 with funds from the Paralympics. The event was taken over in 2008 by Cottage Hospital. The cornerstone of camp is empowering kids to know they can play all the sports I just mentioned with their friends and family. »

“We run the camp with about 50 volunteers. We have about 20 to 30 a day,” she said. “They are the backbone of the camp.

“A lot of people of all ages volunteer and have done so for years,” she said.

Ms Van Hoorn also noted: “All counselors and coaches are wheelchair users”.

She said that everyone who attends the camp and their families feel the positive impact of the camp.

“If there’s anything I would love to see is people realizing that you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to do what we do,” Ms Van Hoorn said. “Just give them a chance. We want people to know what they can do, not what they can’t. Just be creative like we are with anyone.

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