UK Exchange highlights Stefan Hoggan

BlazeSports America is currently hosting a UK Sport Exchange for seven participants, all from Scotland. The participants arrived on Saturday, September 6 in Washington, D.C. to tour the city and participate in many round table discussions with various educators, activists, and advocates on sport development and disability rights. We have featured an article kicking off the exchange program, and would like to give one of the seven participants, Stefan Hoggan, the opportunity to reflect on his experience. Stefan Hoggan is a 21-year-old swimmer from Scotland who completes at the competitive level, as well as, maintain a full time position at  local pharmacy. He has already become a huge inspiration and we can’t wait to see all of the things he has to offer. The follow reflection is based on his experience thus far.SH

On the first day, we went into Washington, D.C. and went to famous sites like the Capitol building, The White House, Abe Memorial, and the Washington monument. It was a great day and I had such a laugh. One of our leaders, Emily, learned new words, such as, ‘braw’ and we learned that fossett means ‘tap’ in Scottish. At the end of our day, we had the chance to come together and collectively think of a word that best described our day. After much thinking, we decided on the word: FANDABIDOSEY. In other words, we had a fantastic day interacting with each other and touring various historical monuments and museums.

 The next day was filled with adventure and education. After lunch we were all having a craving for frozen yogurt. Emily made several comments on how good it is in America, and it all made us anxious to try it. We got lost in Washington, D.C. looking for a frozen yogurt shop, but finally found it after talking to two Americans. Even though we walked forever and got a little turned around, we were able to see more of the city, as well as, entertainment along the streets. There was a man dancing in the middle of the road. I was shocked that nobody had stopped him. We finally found the shop, and I can now say that frozen yogurt is brilliant. After our long journey, we met with USAID and learned a lot about disability rights and about how we use sport to get disabled and abled people integrated.

SH2On Day 3, we visited Georgetown University, where we got to tour the campus, which was very cool, and exactly what it’s like in the movies. It is really interesting how different our universities are compared to American universities. Afterwards, we met with Judy Heumann, who is an advocate for disability rights. I was beyond thrilled to have the opportunity to be apart of a round table discussion with many educators and advocates on disability rights. I can’t wait to see what is in store for the remainder of our time in Washington, D.C. 

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BlazeSports Wraps Up Summer Camp With City of Milton

One of the highlights of the summer was seeing success with one of our new partnerships with the City of Milton Parks and Recreation Department. Twice a week, BlazeSports would join Camp Joyful Soles to provide two hours of physical activity for the campers.  Joyful Soles is a summer camp for high functioning children with mild cognitive disabilities, ages 13-21 years old. Each camper had the opportunity to learn a variety of sports including boccia, basketball, soccer, baseball, sit volleyball and other group games, along with yoga.

Throughout the summer we saw great improvement in each of the camper’s motor skills, coordination, social skills, confidence and participation. We are looking forward to continuing those improvements and help keep those campers active throughout the year. BlazeSports works to promote living a healthy lifestyle, because children who participate in regular physical activity are happier, healthier and more likely to become active, independent adults.

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Camper Highlight

You could always count on first time camper, Brandon, to come into the gym full of energy. Brandon is a sophomore in high school and takes great pride in his boccia game. He doesn’t play competitively, but enjoys playing in his back yard with his brother and mother. Basketball was something that didn’t come as easily to Brandon as some of the other sports, however he said that he improved his skills each time he played and would like to continue playing throughout the year.

Carly, also a sophomore, is a third time veteran camper. She always came in with a smile on her face and a willingness to try whatever was planned for the day. Carly’s favorite sport at camp was baseball. Carly plays basketball for her church league and runs cross country in the fall for her high school. She enjoys being active and encouraged her fellow campers to do the same. She is already excited for BlazeSports to come back to camp next year.

brandon1   carly

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BlazeSports Highlights Accomplishing Intern

As Sonja Ast wraps up her internship at BlazeSports, she reflects on her accomplishments and the lives she has impacted, as well as, those who have impacted her.

Sonja, along with three other interns have been working with Blaze athletes for the past two months in various sport and educational programs. The opportunity that BlazeSports has provided her will give her the knowledge and experience she will need to continue in sport recreation.  She’s a senior at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia; currently studying Therapeutic Recreation. Sonja would like to give our Blaze family a reflection of her experience at BlazeSports America.

Being an intern at BLazeSports America has been the best experience of my life. I’m so excited that I got the opportunity to do this because I got to explore the world of adapted sports which I thoroughly enjoyed. I loved helping out with summer basketball practice for the Atlanta Junior Wheelchair Hawks. I also really liked being exposed to all the programs and assistive technology that they offer. BlazeSports has also given me a chance get some coaching experience which I hope to aspire to be one day. I highly recommend for other interns to come here, because it’ll truly be the best experience you’ll get.

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Collin Takes on NJDC

BlazeSports America recently competed at the National Junior Disability Competition in Iowa. There were three sporting events: archery, swimming, and track and field. Eight of our athletes qualified for nationals. BlazeBlog would like to take the chance to highlight on one of our youngest athletes, Collin Lancaster, who competed in all three events! Here is his personal story and experience in Iowa.

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The first event that I participated in was archery. I enjoy competing in archery because it is different and it allows me to focus on my ability to concentrate. This year I moved up in levels and I got a new bow! I was so excited to use it at nationals. I received a total of 435 points from two distances. I shot from 20 meters and 10 meters. I do not get the chance to practice archery as much as I would like to, but I was happy with my results since it was the best I had done yet with a new bow.

Next, I competed in five swimming events: 50 Breast stroke, 50 Free, 50 Back stroke, 100 Free, and 25 Breast stroke. My favorite event to swim in is the 50 Free. It is my best event. I enjoy swimming because it really shows how strong my upper body is without my lower body. I have always enjoyed swimming with my brothers and cousins, but being able to compete allows me to swim on a different level. I still enjoy swimming for fun with my brothers, especially in the summer.

The last sporting event that I competed in was track and field. It was two very long days for me but it was my favorite event. Moving up an age group was very challenging for me, but it made me realize how much more I have to push myself. On the first day I set two personal records in the 800 and 100. The next day I raced in the 200 and 400. I set another personal record in the 400. My favorite part about track and field was competing with older and new kids.

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My favorite thing about an individual sport is pushing myself to be the best that I can be. I can set my own pace. I like being apart of a team sport too because I like coming together with other kids with disabilities and competing against other teams, together. I am really glad I was able compete at the NJDC in Iowa. I was able to spend a lot of time with my parents, brothers, and grandparents. My favorite part was being with my family on the off time. We went to the field of dreams, which is somewhere I have always wanted to go! I can’t wait for next summer to see what I have accomplished.

 

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A Recap On The UNOSDP

Maggie Frederick has returned home from an amazing experience at the UNOSDP Youth Leadership Camp in Bradenton, Florida. She was so anxious and excited to share with BlazeSports, as well as, the Blaze community her thoughts on the program. Below is a photo of the 32 individuals who participated in the leadership camp, and Maggie’s final reflection. 

UN Youth

I had only been interning at BlazeSports for a few weeks when BlazeSports staff suggested I apply for the UNOSDP Youth Leadership Camp in Florida. I didn’t really know much about it except I would be learning about sport for development. I will be honest though, I had no idea what that even meant. I found out that I was accepted into the camp. I was so excited because I was going to Florida for 2 weeks and I was going to get to meet people from all over the world. Still, I had no idea what I was going to be doing there.

When I arrived to the camp, I met 2 people from Spain and one from Mexico. We talked on the bus on the way to the camp and I started to think I was the wrong person for this. The people I was with seemed more knowledgeable than me and I was feeling out of place and very nervous. Once we arrived to the IMG academy, I was even more nervous because the first building that I needed to get into was not accessible. I started to wonder what other obstacles I would face over the 2 weeks. From there I finally made it to my room and met one of my 3 roommates. My mind started to ease because my place where I was staying was accessible.

The next morning we had our first session. There were 32 participants representing 20 countries. We discussed what we would be doing and played some ice breaker games to get to know everyone. I knew right then that I had nothing to be worried about. Everyone was so kind that I wasn’t really worried about what I knew or didn’t know. At that moment I knew I was going to come home with so much information and knowledge. All my nerves went away and I was excited to learn new material.

We started the camp with a session from IPC (International Paralympic Committee). I enjoyed this session because I knew a lot of the information and was able to contribute a lot. All of the sessions started with a classroom session and then we had a hands-on session and participated in activities they do in their program. When IPC did the hands-on session, it was very similar to our BlazeDays. We did blind soccer, boccia, sit volleyball, and basketball. I demonstrated to the group how to dribble, push, and pick up the ball using the wheel. When we broke up into groups I stayed at the basketball station to help.

One of my favorite sessions was learning about Judo. The instructor seemed so passionate about what he was teaching that it made me more interested in it. Judo is based on a moral code and in order to move up to the different belts, not only do you have to learn the skills, but learn the history behind Judo as well. It is not about fighting, it is about respect and you are only to use the technique learned in class during Judo.

During the camp we talked a lot about inclusion. I have never participated in sports with only able bodied people. During camp I was the only one with a physical disability so I had to do things a little differently than the group. For the most part I was able to participate in most activities. One challenge I came across was when we were learning rugby. We were playing on grass so it was difficult for me. I did the drills and warm up but since the field was not accessible for me and no one else was in a chair, I could not safely play against the others. Despite all of this, I was strongly encouraged to play which was a great feeling.

Before the camp I knew nothing about sport for development. But by the end of camp, I knew this was something I wanted to learn more about and become more involved in. I think everyone learned a lot from each other and became eager to continue to learn more. Leaving camp was so hard by the end because we spent every moment with each other for 2 weeks.

I am so happy and honored that BlazeSports thought I was a good candidate, and that I was selected for UNOSDP. I learned so much about myself and from all of the organizations, as well as, the other participants. I am so thankful for this experience and can not wait to be able to put into use what I learned at the camp.

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$25K Raised and Matched! Thank You

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BlazeSports Swimmer Competes For Gold

Maya DAAA

Today, the BlazeBlog would like to highlight BlazeSports swimmer Maya Kahn. She has recently competed in two big events. Maya would like to share her experiences, while she continues to win gold!

On June 18-20 I competed in the Jimi Flowers Classic meet in Colorado Springs, CO.  The meet is named after a Paralympic coach who died in a climbing accident.  I was excited to meet the top Paralympic swimmers!  I’ve swam in the same meets with Paralympians a number of times now, but swimming with Jessica Long is always especially exciting.

The Jimi Flowers meet is held every year at the Olympic Training Center (OTC).  It was my first time seeing the OTC, and I’ve always wanted to be a resident athlete there one day.  My friend Lindsay, a former Blazer, is in residence there, meaning she is in training for a spot on the Paralympic swim team.  Lindsay was so kind to give me a personal tour of the OTC, showing me many of the training facilities for a number of different sports, and even showing me her dorm room.  After seeing the OTC, I am even more committed to my training so that someday I may be a resident athlete at the OTC also.

Training at the OTC is tough, and even more so by the fact it is located at high altitude.  Coming to Colorado Springs just the day before competition I didn’t have opportunity to acclimate, and it showed in my times.  Swimming at the high altitude felt like every stroke was a chore.  But I understand now why athletes train at high altitudes to make their bodies stronger.

Luckily my next meet was at sea level.  Soon after Jimi Flowers I traveled to San Diego for the annual Little People of America convention and the Dwarf Athletic Association of America National Games.  It was really fun swimming with my little people friends, some of which are in Paralympic training also.  Even Danielle Kisser, a World Champion from Canada, was there.  I was proud to get a gold in every event I entered (50 back, 50 free and 50 breast).  I also had fun doing two relays, which included swimming with a wet T-shirt and then having to flip it over the next person’s head from yourself as quickly as you can.  Medals were not awarded for the relays, but they were fun to do anyways!

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