President's Message: Spring is Here!

David C. Jones

Photo of David C. Jones, FDOA President

We are just into the New Year and we are already enjoying our beautiful springtime Florida weather.  Winter never really showed this year, but we know the seasons are changing and our outdoor recreation activities also shift gears and rotate as we very fortunate Florida residents find our happy places where we engage.

All of our deer hunters with mobility impairments have put away their gear for the year, but here in Florida we have a very long hunting season. Quail and small game seasons run to mid-March and then the spring turkey season opens. Fishing is a year round sport in the great Sunshine State and this early spring weather has made for great catches on salt and fresh waters between the little fronts that come and go quickly.  We are making plans for the Hands Helping Anglers event in late June.  We are assisting Captain Tony Murphy in a renovation of his boat, the “Apalachee Cat” to make it accessible for people who use wheelchairs and for others with disabilities. He is a long time HHA volunteer and will soon offer inclusive charter fishing trips out of Shields Marina. Gabrielle Gabrielli, our local SCUBA enthusiast and HSA certified instructor, has been leading diving adventures across the State with several of our FDOA members participating and sending back great pictures of the experiences that they  have enjoyed in that underwater wonderland.

  • Big Canoe Race: Our serious paddling friends go year round, but the fair weather paddlers are now hitting the water.   We are hosting a Big Canoe team paddling challenge on March 5th at the Florida State University (FSU) Seminole Reservation. This is a first for Tallahassee and we would love for you or an affiliate organization to join us for this fun and exciting new fundraiser for SportsAbility.
  • SportsAbility: Our annual SportsAbility event is just a few weeks out and you should mark your calendars and plan to join us   April 6th for the Miracle Sports night SportsAbility kickoff night then two more days through the 8th when we will pack In and provide an assortment of accessible and inclusive recreation options that nobody else can, or ever has, provided during a three-day period. Somebody can fact check that.
  • Get Outdoors Florida 5K: We will be participating with the  partner organization “Get Outdoors Florida" in their first 5K run, a mile family fun  run and other activities  to promote outdoor recreation  on Feb 25th in Tallahassee.
  • Peace Jam: Our Miracle Sports program is hosting a “Peace Jam” event with FSU at the Miracle Field on March 25th. 

There is a lot of fun stuff going on with the FDOA.  Check our website; Facebook or just call (850) 201-2944 for more information or with any thoughts or ideas that may help you personally, help someone else, or maybe a way to help the FDOA. Please join us in making a difference in the lives of many families that may have been touched by disability.  Active leisure for life!

Executive Director's Message: Don’t miss your chance to observe / learn PARA-BADMINTON from coaches coming from SPAIN!

Laurie LoRe-Gussak, MBA, IOM, CAE

Photo of Laurie LoRe-GussakSpain’s Para-badminton coaches Federico Abadia Hernandez and Jose Reina are bringing para-badminton to the United States and will be show-casing the sport at SportsAbility (April 6-8 in Tallahassee)!  Since Para-badminton will be introduced as a Paralympic sport in 2020 in Tokyo, we are excited to be able to get athletes introduced to this exciting game.

The ability to play para-badminton anywhere with a fairly low investment in equipment are making it a fast growing sport. In case you missed the article on para-badminton in the last newsletter, you may find more information in the November 2016 newsletter.

Register for SportsAbility today! It's free!

More information on SportsAbility online auction for SportsAbilityOnline Auction Supporting SportsAbility
- Art, Vacations and More!!

Whether or not you can make it to SportsAbility, you still have the opportunity to bid on fabulous items like hotel packages at fabulous resorts, artwork and more! Items are being added all the time, so don't check back often and don't miss this great opportunity!

It doesn't cost anything to look and check out the items available. Take a peek!

SCUBA for People of ALL Abilities including People with a Brain or Spinal Cord Injury

Mary Earnhart, Recreation Management Intern

photo of Mary EarnhartThe Florida Disabled Outdoors Association (FDOA) recently received a grant to purchase SCUBA related equipment that will help adapt the sport to enable persons with disabilities to more easily SCUBA dive. The FDOA works closely with several providers that were trained through Handicapped SCUBA Association (HSA) as an instructor.  With the assistance of an HSA certified instructor, people with a spinal cord injury or other disabilities can participate.

The equipment purchased can be game changer for persons with disabilities who have an interest or passion in diving. The FDOA invested in a thermalution heated undersuit that has a built-in heating system. This may be used for persons with disabilities to dive more comfortably and safely, such as those with paralysis who struggle to regulate body temperature under water.

Other adaptive equipment includes gloves that are webbed in between the fingers to help people who rely more on their hands and arms to swim and Shinfins, which are fins that can be attached using straps to a person’s shin may be utilized by persons with disabilities, especially amputees, to assist with mobility under water.  A semidry wetsuit, which keeps the diver drier during a dive and also assists with regulating body temperature.

 “The Handicapped Scuba Association (HSA) has dedicated itself to improving the physical and social well-being of people with disabilities through the sport of scuba diving. Scuba diving can be used to:

  • To improve the health and fitness of people with disabilities by challenging their physical abilities and endurance;
  • To improve the quality of life of people with disabilities by providing opportunities to actively participate in a mainstream sport;
  • To ‘level the playing field’ between people with disabilities and their able bodied peers by facilitating access to a sport that they, and others, thought was not possible; To motivate people with disabilities into pursuing other life challenges (education, employment, travel, sports) by allowing them to achieve at a sport that many people cannot.”

photo of Ronny Ahmed and dive buddiesSCUBA diving can make such a positive impact on a person’s life, especially for persons with a disability.  Farhan Ronny Ahmed, a certified scuba diver with a spinal cord injury that regularly goes enjoys the sport of SCUBA diving. His life was forever changed when an active shooter at Strozier Library on FSU Campus opened fire and shot Ronny, paralyzing him. After 21 years of being able-bodied, having traveled around the world and living a very active lifestyle, Ronny could have never suspected that his life and level of mobility would be forever changed on that grave night.  It has been anything but easy for him to come to terms with his Paraplegia, however, he has managed to keep an incredible attitude and has adapted to his new lifestyle that had been forced upon him. Something that truly impacted his life in a positive way was discovering his passion for scuba diving (post injury).

Under the water, he not only gets relief from the pain that haunts him daily, but also feels more than capable. He also gains confidence in himself in participating in this activity and is continuously inspired by it, dive after dive. He is currently working towards his Dive Master certification. Ronny recently went on a dive at the Epcot Center in Orlando, FL with HSA certified SCUBA instructor, Gabrielle Gabrelli, where he was able  to try the new equipment that the FDOA had helped to provide. He was pleasantly surprised how much the equipment assisted him while diving. Since Ronny does not have use of his legs, he has had to adapt to swimming under water differently than other divers. Instead of fins, he uses webbed gloves and the ones provided by the FDOA helped him to glide through the water with ease. Since Ronny is paralyzed from the waist down, it is difficult for him to regulate his body temperature and the thermalution heated undersuit did a great job of keeping him warm underneath the water.

“SCUBA gives me freedom from a lifetime of pain and limitations. Once in the water, it does not matter that I am differently-abled. I can see and reach everything I want, even occasionally accomplishing things others can’t. It’s teaching me about leadership, preparedness, overcoming obstacles and problem solving.”
 –Farhan Ronny Ahmed

More information for People with a Spinal Cord Injury:

English / Spanish

More information for People with a Brain Injury:
English / Spanish

New Accessible Icon - On the MOVE!!

active accessibility signWe’ve all seen the universally-used disability symbol, whether it was at the mall, at a school or in a bathroom. This blue square with a white image of a person sitting in a wheelchair is a symbol that’s recognized worldwide. This symbol is an indication that the marked area is designated for individuals who have a disability.

The Accessible Icon Project is updating this inactive symbol and creating new symbols that  display action and are engaging. Triangle, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping individuals with disabilities move forward, has teamed up with the Accessible Icon Project. Together, they work to transform the handicapped symbol into a symbol of empowerment. The Accessible Icon Project strongly believes in appropriate visual representation for people with disabilities.

More info

athlete with a disability playing tennisPlease help someone with a disability learn
how to benefit from physical activity!

You may think that small donation won't make a difference, but it truly does! Each person contributing a small amount makes an impact on someone's life forever!  Please donate whatever you can to help a person with a disability experience the benefits of the physical activities.


Donations may also be mailed to:

Florida Disabled Outdoors Association
2475 Apalachee Parkway, Suite 205
Tallahassee, FL 32301

 FDOA gratefully accepts tax deductible donations and in-kind gifts as a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization. (Federal ID# 59-3051552)