Happy 2012 from BlazeSports!

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2012 – Big things ahead for BlazeSports

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Dear Friends of BlazeSports America,

With this year drawing to a close, I want to thank you for your support of BlazeSports and extend our wishes for the happiest of holidays and a very Happy New Year. As the global economy continued to stall in 2011, it is a testament to the vitality and versatility of BlazeSports America that the past year brought us growth and new opportunities. While many nonprofit organizations are struggling just to maintain the status quo, BlazeSports reached new heights. Our culture of innovation continued to reap dividends this year with new programs, partnerships, and initiatives putting us at the forefront in development of sport for advancing the lives of persons with physical disability. We have created and developed new sport opportunities, pathways to independence, technical expertise and toolkits, education and training programs, web-based resources, and even used Paralympic and disability sports for the development of human rights, peace-building, and economic empowerment.

This year, our work brought recognition and new funding from the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the United Nations Office of Sport for Development and Peace, the United European Football Association (UEFA), and the US Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. With their support, we are continuing and deepening our ongoing efforts in Haiti and Jordan while establishing new program components in Russia. We founded a permanent office and BlazeSports Academy in Haiti, and successfully recruited Daniel Pierre-Charles, the country’s celebrated and now-former Director General of the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Civic Action, to spearhead our work there. Further, we have renewed our commitment and efforts to promote health and human rights through sport for persons with disability in Kenya and Egypt.

In the national arena, our partnership with the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in the Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) initiative created a model public-private partnership that is making sustainable community change a reality. And the BlazeSports Certified Disability Sport Specialist (CDSS) credential launched in 2010 has already been widely embraced by sports organizations, rehabilitation centers, and universities in the USA and abroad. The courses and curriculum developed by the BlazeSports Institute provides a much-needed rigorous and formal process to educate and to evaluate the competencies, experience, and training of professionals in the field.  BlazeSports veterans’ sports and community reintegration services have expanded and are reaching veterans and injured military service members throughout Georgia and the Southeast.

On the Georgia front, the Georgia Department of Labor and Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation continue to be major linchpins of the BlazeSports operation. The BlazeSports Georgia FirstWork program was launched and provides prevocational training and seasonal work for young adults with disability in Georgia in the field of recreation and sport administration. The demand for BlazeSports teams, afterschool programs, and BlazeDays in the Schools events has exploded despite the significant decline in State support due to the economic climate. We are making steady progress in securing community sponsors and are grateful for local foundation support that is keeping our kids active in wheelchair basketball, swimming, boccia, track and field, and outdoor adventure activities.

I am both grateful and proud of the leadership and commitment shown by the entire BlazeTeam – our Board Members, staff, volunteers, interns, parents, and of course, our young athletes. Our sustained innovation and success, however, is not conjured from thin air. They require dedication, knowledge, creativity, and, yes, money. BlazeSports manages to run a dynamic global and domestic operation with a cost-effectiveness that is nearly unheard of in the industry, but we still need your help to keep pushing forward. If you have not yet had the chance to offer your holiday gift to BlazeSports America, I ask that you please do so before the year’s end. Only checks dated 2011 and received by January 16th will be counted toward our 2011 annual total, and the larger the total giving, the more funds we have on-hand to continue changing lives and the more competitive we are when we apply for grants in the upcoming year. Alternatively, you may give online at Please support BlazeSports. At BlazeSports, we believe in stewardship and try hard not to over-ask. But we need your help to provide those donor dollars that multiply by giving us the matching resources that grants often require and enable us to help swiftly when a child, or family, or country faces an unexpected disaster.

I know that the holidays can be an expensive time, but BlazeSports depends on you. And no matter the size of your gift, you do make a very real difference in the lives of those we serve. Together, we are building a better future for children and adults with disabilities. With your help, 2012 can bring a better tomorrow for the thousands who depend on us and on your generousity.

Wishing you all the best,

Carol Mushett, CEO

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BlazesSports takes a big step forward in Haiti

This past week BlazeSports America took a big step forward in Haiti by hiring its first Country Director, Daniel Pierre-Charles, and securing an office and conference complex which will also provide substantial housing space for its staff and consultants. BlazeSports CEO Carol Mushett Johnson and Director of International Sport Development Stuart Sharp along with staff members Senam Apaloo and Felipe Rodriques were in Port-au-Prince to finalize the hiring of Mr. Pierre-Charles and lease the magnificent office/conference/housing compound from Michele and Jerry Tardieu.

Mr. Pierre-Charles recently accepted the position of Country Director after having worked with BlazeSports over the past year-and-a half in his capacity as Secretary General of the Haiti Ministry of Youth, Sport and Civic Engagement, a job he had performed for many years. According to Mr. Pierre-Charles, his motivation for accepting the position was the great potential and capacity that BlazeSports possessed for making a major positive impact on the people of his native country and, particularly, those with physical disability. Mr. Pierre-Charles was instrumental in the success that BlazeSports experienced in Haiti from its initial efforts to provide relief to persons with disabilities following the devastating earthquake of January 2010. BlazeSports is extremely pleased that Mr. Pierre-Charles, a man of principle who is held in the very highest of regards in Haiti, has chosen to join the BlazeSports family.

During a previous trip to Haiti, Carol and her team visited the compound that another international NGO had recently vacated following the conclusion of its work in Haiti. It was very apparent to Carol that the compound offered all the elements necessary to provide the spatial needs for BlazeSports’ operations in Haiti. Upon pursuing an agreement to lease the facility, Carol found the owners to be two persons of great integrity, insight, compassion and vision. Carol made quick friendship, dare it be described as kinship, with Ms. Michelle Tardieu and her son Jerry, a very influential Harvard-educated businessman in Haiti. BlazeSports is so very fortunate to have such great friends, colleagues and supporters as Michele and Jerry in Haiti.

While in Haiti, the BlazeSports team began the formal implementation of the multi-year projects upon which the organization has embarked in the island nation. There is no doubt that with our new team members there that our projects in Haiti will be very successful and produce the desired outcomes that are expected by US Agency of International Development (USAID), US Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and United European Football Association (UEFA).

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Great CDSS training in Louisville at Frazier Rehab

BlazeSports conducted a Certified Disability Sport Specialist (CDSS) training workshop in Louisville for 37 participants. Just a couple of weeks ago BlazeSports trained a large group in Colorado Springs. Participants hail from Louisville, Lexington, (and other towns in Kentucky), Ft. Benning, GA as well as Indiana University and Southern Indiana. We had CTRS’s, PT’s, clinical coordinators, physician residents, university professors, parks department staff members, Jefferson County public school professionals, prosthetists, and an Invacare sales representative for the VA.  According to BlazeSports staff “Everyone is engaged and enjoying what they are learning.  It’s a great group.”
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Estimated 15% of the world’s population has a disability

From the UN Enable website (UN Enable)…

Persons with disabilities make up an estimated 15 per cent of the world’s population. Almost one-fifth of the estimated global total of persons living with disabilities, or between 110-190 million, encounter significant difficulties. Furthermore, a quarter of the global population is directly affected by disability, as care-givers or family members.

Persons with disabilities encounter many disadvantages in their societies and are often subjected to stigma and discrimination. They remain largely marginalized, disproportionately poorer, frequently unemployed and have higher rates of mortality. Furthermore, they are largely excluded from civil and political processes and are overwhelmingly voiceless in matters that affect them and their society.

Experience shows that when persons with disabilities are empowered to participate and lead the process of development, their entire community benefits, as their involvement creates opportunities for everyone – with or without a disability. Including persons with disabilities and their communities in developmental efforts is important to advance the development agenda.

Thus it is imperative that development efforts around the world include disability issues when determining policies, programmes, as well as allocating funds for developmental programmes and projects. Mainstreaming disability in development is a strategy for achieving equality for persons with disabilities.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which is both a human rights treaty and a development tool, provides an opportunity to strengthen developmental policies related to the implementation of internationally agreed development goals, such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), thereby contributing to the realization of a “society for all” in the twenty-first century.

The General Assembly in its most recent resolution 65/186, seeks to convene a High-Level meeting on disability in 2012, with a view to strengthening efforts to ensure the inclusion of persons with disabilities in all aspects of development efforts.

Sub-themes for commemorating the International Day of persons with disabilities in 2011

This year, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs requested the input of its partners and the general public for suggestions on a theme for the International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2011. Many responses were received from both, the UN system and civil society.

Now, for the first time, the Day will be commemorated under a general theme with supporting sub-themes to draw attention to key areas that would work in synergy to mainstream disability in all development processes.

Based on the main theme of IDPD 2011 “Together for a better world for all: Including persons with disabilities in development”, suggested sub-themes are:

Mainstreaming disability: including a disability perspective in all development processes (more information)
Gender: including women and girls with disabilities in development (more information)
Including children and youth with disabilities in development (more information)
Accessibility: removing barriers and promoting disability-inclusive development (more information)
Promoting data collection and statistics on disability (more information)
Include: Observance of the Day provides opportunities for participation by all stakeholders – Governments, the UN system, civil society and organizations of persons with disabilities – to focus on issues related to the inclusion of persons with disabilities in development, both as beneficiaries and agents.

Organize: Hold forums, public discussions and information campaigns in support of the themes of IDPD 2011 to find innovative ways and means by which persons with disabilities and their families can be further integrated into the development agenda.

Celebrate: Plan and organize performances everywhere to showcase – and celebrate – the contributions made by persons with disabilities as agents of change and development in the communities in which they live.

Take Action: A major focus of the Day is practical action to mainstream disability in all aspects of development, as well as to further the participation of persons with disabilities in social life and development on the basis of equality. Highlight progress and obstacles in implementing disability-sensitive policies, as well as promote public awareness of barriers to the full inclusion of persons with disabilities in their societies.

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