David C. Jones
FDOA Founder's Message: Fodder from the Founder

David C. Jones

The FDOA is thirty years old this year!  We share our Anniversary with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. The ADA has changed the world of civil rights for millions of people in the United States and in fact around the globe. It provides everybody the "opportunity to participate“ in all sectors of life, including recreation and leisure. We celebrated our 30th with the annual SportsAbility event.  We have enjoyed tremendous growth and support from participants, sponsorships, activity providers, resource providers and especially in our vital and valuable volunteers. These are really all the people that make our special event so truly special year after year. Take a minute to look back at our 25th event and hear my testimony to that effect. Then take a peek at this year’s 30th event introductory interview for a little more history about FDOA and SportsAbility, and for the big news about our first #mySportsAbility .

I can still remember the excitement, anticipation and enjoyment of planning for our second SportsAbility event many years back at the Seminole Reservation on Lake Bradford here in our home town of Tallahassee. This was way before many of you were among our faithful supporters. Our volunteers were mostly family and friends, and before many of you were even born. It was created and delivered by a small group of people in our community with a common interest in helping people enjoy life by simply providing the “opportunity to participate.” I learned from my personal experience the therapeutic value of recreation and how active leisure helps in healing, developing, and maintaining optimal physical, mental, emotional and vocational health and well-being. That same excitement has stayed in me and as we enjoy the return of participants and as we welcome new friends every year, and we grow in numbers, activities, locations and in our partners.   Our two main goals of SportsAbility over all these years has been to attract new people and to add something new every year. This year we blew it open with both goals. We did something that I had never even dreamed of: a totally virtual SportsAbility. We increased our participants more than tenfold and added thousands of new friends.

Life is a teacher of many great lessons if you keep a positive and optimistic attitude and an open mind. Things that are truly terrible and devastating can actually produce lots of good. Our present global pandemic is a nightmare that we could not have imagined could ever happen, but in all of our pain and suffering some good opportunities will be presented and we will continue to explore them. I am truly excited by some of the new ideas and direction that we will continue to pursue. We will continue to look for the “opportunity to participate.”

There is news to share about the Mobility Impaired hunt program. We have worked with the Saint Marks National Wildlife Refuge to double the number of participants in the program to thirty hunters and each can invite a guest to accompany them as well. They also enlarged the hunt area to more than double the area in the Panacea unit.

FWC also acted on the request of our hunters to change the Holton Creek and Suwannee Ridge hunt dates to mid- November, a more desirable opportunity. Also an Important notice and reminder to all, that the Quota hunt permit application process starts on May 15th. Those wishing to participate on hunts in our Wildlife Management Areas need to get their applications in to get the hunts of your choice for next season.
More info on hunting, shooting, fishing and outdoor recreation

The FDOA is supporting a National R3 initiative through a grant funded by  the Florida Wildlife Foundation. This program is an effort to Recruit, Retain, and Reactivate, hunting, shooting sports and outdoor recreation participants. This is a common goal as we use their R3 approach to recruit, retain and reactivate participants into our “Active Leisure for Life” philosophy.

  Active Leisure for Life!

photo of Laurie Gussak

Executive Director's Message: 30th Anniversary Goes Virtual
Laurie LoRe-Gussak, MBA, IOM, CAE

We are so excited to celebrate the 30th anniversary of SportsAbility!!! We celebrated in a much different way than we had expected, but that is leading to all kinds of new opportunities. Our celebration was supposed to take place in Tallahassee at the three day SportsAbility event. Well, of course, all live events are not being held to make sure we keep people safe. We wanted to come up with a way that we could still encourage people to be active and we came up with a virtual SportsAbility called #MySportsAbility. It was a huge success with a reach of almost 13,000 over the three days!!! In addition, more participants are continuing to access content every day.

Everyone that was asked to hold a live class or share information said a definite YES! We were so surprised and pleased with the feedback we were getting. We were able to hold sessions that included:

  • Fitness Workouts
  • Nutritional Cooking Class
  • Live Ask Questions of a Recreation Therapist
  • Sit Water-skiing
  • Therapeutic Horseback Riding
  • Adaptive SCUBA
  • Adaptive Biking
  • Adaptive Tennis
  • Archery

While the majority of the people that participated were from the United States, we had participants from 10 different countries. People of all ages attended and people of all abilities attended virtually in each part of the State of Florida.

If you were unable to access the content, you may still access it via Facebook AND we also created a way you can access it directly from the FDOA website at https://www.fdoa.org/mysportsability. There you can find a Youtube playlist where you can pick the session you want to watch or just watch all the sessions that we posted. Please check it out!!

We can definitely see that this is a great way to connect, so we will be offering more content this way. Don’t worry – our live programs will come back as soon as it is safe!

 SPOILER ALERT: Look out for more news on the Virtual #SportsAbilitySampler at #FamilyCafeVirtual. Details will continue to be updated at https://www.fdoa.org/cafe-sampler

Stay safe my friends!!

Making Meaning During Uncertain Times
Riley Harrison, FDOA Intern

One trick that I have found extremely helpful during this period of uncertainty is consciously choosing to make meaning. Making meaning can come in many different forms and is very specific to the individual. When our “normal” began to be redefined, I made the conscious decision to examine where I am currently at in life and where I want to be. Below I will include some tips and tricks that can help inspire you to create and make meaning, specific to you, during this time.
Step 1: Free Write

Writing, for me, involves getting out a piece of paper or pulling up a word document on my computer and journaling my thoughts. For you, it might be using audio diction on your phone or computer, using voice memos, writing in your Notes application on your phone, or even handwriting out you answers on a piece of paper.

Below is a list of several prompts you can use during the free writing step:
1.    Where do I want to be physically, mentally, emotionally one year from now? 3 years from now? 5 years from now?
2.    What do I want to change for myself?
3.    What can I do to bring me closer to achieving my goals?

Step 2: Set 3 Goals
Take the time now to review and look over your drafted thoughts from step 1.
1.    Is there anything specifically that grabs your attention?
2.    Focus on the elements that stand out to you.
3.    Create three goals that are representative of your thoughts.
Examples of specific goals are “exercise for 30 minutes 4-5x’s a week” or “do three random acts of kindness a week”.

Step 3: Put your goals into action
Now that you have your three goals, how will you begin to start accomplishing them?
What support do you need?
What actions need to be completed in order to begin positively challenging yourself?
I hope that these steps are helpful in creating meaning during uncertain times. I have created mini-projects for myself that involve me working with my hands or learning a new skill. While most of us are primarily at home during this time, now is the perfect opportunity to learn something new and/or create new goals. Best of luck in this new adventure!

Mark Your Calendar!

Miracle Sports Tallahassee
The upcoming season is tennis which will be held every Thursday in July. Updates will be posted online.

Alexey Talai - Paralympian SwimmerParalympian Swimmer Highlight - Alexei Talai

Thomas Henry, FDOA Intern

This motivational story comes all the way from the Republic of Belarus, where a good friend of the Florida Disabled Outdoors Association is using his disability as a platform to spread positivity. Indeed, international Paralympic swimmer Alexei Talai strives to motivate and inspire through his life stories. Father of four children and world record holder in his sport, Alexei created a charitable foundation in Belarus, where he hopes to impact many people’s lives. “The foundation is still building”, he says, “my goal is to provide information to children or parents who don’t understand their situations, or have trouble seeing a viable future.” With thousands of parents reaching out to him on social media and asking questions about their children’s disabilities, Alexei is looking to show that “Nothing is impossible” through his foundation, and that these kids can still have a good life if they work for it.

When becoming famous, Alexei Talai never forgot his main objective, which is to use his platform to help children with disabilities to meet other people and expose them to success stories. Whether being on a TV show to talk about his life stories or through his foundation, Alexei’s heart and soul give him the mental strength necessary to be able to help others and make a difference in their life. When trying to achieve that purpose, swimming and sports appeared to be a great way of showing the world that disabilities shouldn’t stop people from being successful, which is why he decided to start training. After a couple of years, he became a world record holder, which he characterizes as a great example of self-belief. “I can do it and so can you” is a motto that Alexei is trying to convey through his speeches, charitable activities, and as a father. “As long as people trust their feelings to do the right things, everything will be okay” is something that Alexei has lived by to reach his personal goals and help others.

After his accident, which caused him to lose his limbs at sixteen years old, Alexei mentions the importance of love and motivation in his journey back to life. As unexpected events happen in people’s lives, his message becomes even more powerful, especially since Belarus was in a very difficult economic situation when that happened. Alexei strongly believes that everybody comes to this world to have a unique life story and that people have to keep believing in God’s ability to put them through that path. In these times of changes and challenges, he emphasizes the importance of being strong, and to help each other to survive, as well as living life to the fullest until the end.

Alexei’s actions are all targeted to help people and to expose them to the different opportunities available to them, with the sole purpose of bringing flavor, joy, and light for individuals who might have gotten lost. With his experience of almost dying during his accident, he stresses the importance of going  through a lot of life experiences, good or bad, and to save them in our minds like “a USB flash drive”. According to Alexei, dreaming is an essential part of that journey, where the mind can be used as a very powerful tool, as long as people’s actions follow their hearts to live a happier life.

After qualifying for the Tokyo Paralympic Games, Alexei’s goal is to keep impacting more people through his sport, as he trains to be successful in his events in Japan. Once he will be done with that competition, he looks forward to coming back to the States to share his knowledge and experiences. Finally, Alexei wants to thank all the sponsors, volunteers, members, and staff members working with the Florida Disabled Outdoors Association and is very appreciative of all the work completed towards making this world a better place.

We would love to hear if you have a favorite Paralympic sport or athlete. Let us know on social media! Tag us!  Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn

Information for People with a Spinal Cord Injury:
English / Spanish

Information for People with a Brain Injury:
English / Spanish

Please help someone with a disability learn photo of a boy hugging a horsehow 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.
Donate on FDOA Website
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Donations may also be mailed to:
Florida Disabled Outdoors Association

3035 Eliza Road
Tallahassee, FL 32308

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