Celebrate National Rehabilitation Week – September 16 – 22, 2012

Sunday, September 16 will be the kick off for National Rehabilitation Week that will last until Saturday, the 22nd. The week’s purpose is to educate people on the powers of rehabilitation and share the message that through rehab there is hope, achievement and success. During the celebration, individuals that have overcome disabilities are spotlighted and given awards, and noteworthy rehabilitation facilities are thanked for their ongoing efforts to improve the lives of disabled Americans.

 Awareness for rehabilitation was first celebrated 26 years ago, in 1976. At that time, it was only a small scale local awareness campaign put on by the Allied Services healthcare system. From there, it has only grown bigger. 1990 marked a milestone for the celebration when Allied joined forces with rehab facilities across the country to secure a Presidential proclamation which officially designated the third week in September as National Rehabilitation Week. In 1997, the observance took yet another step forward when, for the first time, it was celebrated under the banner of the newly-established National Rehabilitation Awareness Foundation.

 The National Rehabilitation Awareness Foundation’s mission is to educate people about the benefits and impact of rehabilitation; develop programs which aim to increase opportunities for the nearly 50 million Americans with disabilities, and help those who are disabled live up to their fullest potential through rehabilitation. The not-for-profit foundation is headquartered in Scranton, Pennsylvania. (http://www.nraf-rehabnet.org/index.html)

 There are plenty of ways to include your community and organization in the awareness of this week to make the celebration a success. Some ideas provided by the National Rehabilitation Awareness Foundation are:

Community Outreach Activities

  • Plan an Open House and offer free health screenings, health information and tours of your facility.
  • Secure proclamations from government offices declaring the week “National Rehab Awareness Week.”
  • Write a guest editorial to area newspapers regarding the positive impact of rehab/ Pitch rehab success stories to newspaper and magazine feature writers.
  • Invite local schools to participate in poster contests using “Celebrating the Successes of People With Disabilities” as a theme. Display art work throughout your facility.
  • Speak to school groups about rehabilitation careers.
  • Organize wheelchair sports challenges. To increase promotion, invite local news reporters and celebrities to participate.
  • Encourage local businesses to participate by displaying educational information and posters.
  • Invite government officials and media representatives to participate in a walking
    survey of the community to determine if all public areas are wheelchair accessible. Take action to correct areas which are not.
  • Be creative and think of fun and unique ways to celebrate! In the past, participants have held rehab trivia contests, buried time capsules; organized marathons; coordinated a hot air balloon race; hosted a county-wide tailgate party; held sports clinics; and constructed a fully accessible playground in observance of the celebration.

Like the National Rehabilitation Awareness Foundation, BlazeSports America also wants to educate others on the opportunities that people with physical disabilities have. We do this through BlazeDays. A BlazeDay is a unique and exciting opportunity for students in schools and community groups to experience a range of Paralympic sports. The aims of a BlazeDay  is to increase awareness of the range of sports available to people with physical disabilities, educate students about different types of physical disabilities, encourage inclusion of students with disabilities and help educators become knowledgeable of the importance of active lifestyles for students with disabilities, and the use of Paralympic activities to encourage healthy, active choices. The sports that are included are sitting volleyball, boccia, goal ball and wheelchair relays.

Tell us how you plan on celebrating National Rehabilitation Week in your community.

To organize a BlazeDay – fill out the online form at http://www.blazesports.org/resources/start-a-program/


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Remembering 9/11

September 11, 2001 will forever be remembered as the day terrorism struck the heart of America.  On that day, in the four terrorist attacks levied against America, 2,977 innocents lost their lives, including 411 emergency services personnel.  The unanimity of conviction and cause among all Americans following the tragedy had not been experienced in such scale since the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 that brought the United States into World War II.  Terrorists attempted to break the American spirit, to tear us apart, to strike fear in our hearts.  They could not have failed more miserably.

Rather than divide us, thousands gave their time in the days, months and even years following 9/11 in service to the community.  From rescue efforts to survivor support services, countless hours were given.  As we shall always remember the tragedy of 9/11, we must also move forward.  According to www.serve.gov, efforts began in 2002 to “establish a tradition of engaging in charitable service on 9/11 as an annual and forward-looking tribute to the 9/11 victims, survivors, and those who rose up in service in response to the attacks.”  As a result of those efforts, Congress, in 2009, designated September 11th as a National Day of Service and Remembrance. 

On this National Day of Service and Remembrance, let us pause to remember the tragedy of 9/11, but let us also celebrate the American spirit and dedication to service to the community.  Organizations engaged in adapted and disability sport know the value of volunteerism and service.  Without volunteers dedicated to serving the community we would not be able to provide many of the programs and services that change the lives of people with physical disability. 

The London 2012 Paralympic Games concluded on Sunday with Team USA, comprised of 227 athletes that included 20 U.S. military veterans and active duty service members, earning 98 total medals placing the U.S. fourth in total medals behind China (231), Great Britain (120) and the Russian Federation (102).  It is hard to say how many of those athletes were able to realize their Paralympic dream at least in part due to the efforts of a volunteer, but it is certain that for every Paralympian, there are hundreds more people with physical disability whose lives are touched each day by someone who has dedicated a portion of their lives to service to their community.

As we remember 9/11, let us also celebrate the American commitment to volunteerism and service that was so evident eleven years ago and remains just as strong today.

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