Our Favorite Orgs – Strong as Steel Adaptive Sports

May is Pediatric Stroke Awareness Month and the CHASA leaders would like to share some of our favorite organizations with you. These are folks who are doing some awesome work to help kids with hemiplegia, pediatric stroke, or different disabilities in general.

Strong as Steel Adaptive Sports – Western Pennsylvania

Darla Clayton’s son, Trent, has survived many hemorrhagic strokes in his young life and has right hemiplegic cerebral palsy and epilepsy.  He has always been a natural runner; running has seemed to come more easily to him than walking!  When Trent tried other sports, soccer, baseball, etc., he excelled at the running parts but wasn’t a huge fan of the other sporting activities.  In the Spring of 2011, Darla and her husband decided to look into a running program for Trent.

There was no adaptive track and field program in their area, but Trent wanted to run. Trent’s family had some great support from other families they met through the Children’s Hemiplegia and Stroke Association (CHASA).  They were given great information about how to qualify and register for the National Junior Disability Championships from CHASA families.  Trent qualified for NJDC and attending NJDC was a wonderful experience for him and their entire family!  He came home feeling fantastic about himself and also asking excellent questions like “why don’t we have a team in Pittsburgh” and “I bet there are other kids in Pittsburgh who would love to come to NJDC next year”.  So the Clayton family began to talk about starting a team in Pittsburgh to share the inspiration they felt at NJDC with other local families! That’s how Strong as Steel Adaptive Sports was born.

The mission of Strong as Steel Adaptive Sports is to provide sport specific training and opportunities in the Western PA area for children ages 5 to 21 with physical disabilities (ambulatory, wheelchair or visually impaired athletes) and to encourage them to attend local, regional and national competitions. They focus on track and field but also provide opportunities for competition in other sports including archery, table tennis, weight lifting, and swimming.  Their goal is to encourage children to gain independence despite any challenges they may face. While children gain physical strength and athletic skills, they will also be gaining self-esteem and learning perseverance.

Strong as Steel athletes will participate in meets sanctioned by Wheelchair and Ambulatory Sports USA.  Athletes are classified at meets based on the type of disability they have and the disability severity, using a classification system very similar to the one used by the Paralympics.  For instance, there are 8 classifications for cerebral palsy to allow for the variability that exists within the diagnosis (quadriplegia, hemiplegia, diplegia, ambulatory and wheelchair athletes). The classification system allows kids to compete on a more even playing field.  Trent is classified as a T37 for Track events and an F37 for field events.  To learn more about Wheelchair and Ambulatory Sports USA, and the classification process, you can check out their website.

Check out the Strong as Steel Adaptive Sports website! If you know any athletes who would be appropriate for their program, please share this information with them.

CHASA salutes the Clayton family and Strong as Steel Adaptive Sports volunteers for their awesome and dedicated efforts to encourage children to gain physical strength and athletic skills despite any challenges they may face.