Our History

FDOA Founder David Jones sit water skiing

It is rare that someone can take a “tragedy” as an opportunity to change their life and help others. That is exactly what David Jones did. His injury became a personal commitment to help others. In 1988, David Jones was shot in a hunting accident resulting in a serious head injury that left him with permanent paralyses of his left leg, limited mobility and no use of left hand. David utilized a wheelchair for one year, then gradually increased mobility to the point where he could walk with a walker and now walks with a slight limp without any device. He remains paralyzed in one arm. In the process of his rehabilitation, he became aware of the importance of recreation for rehabilitation – not only to improve mobility, but to improve mental well-being. David saw this event in his life as a challenge and an opportunity to assist others. This life changing event developed into his personal crusade.

David went back to school and received his bachelor’s degree and with his degree in Marketing learned that an effective organization fills a need that is not being met. David Jones overcame the challenge of his disability utilizing sports for himself and others by forming the Florida Disabled Outdoors Association in 1990.

Laurie LoRe-Gussak joined the team as a volunteer in 2000 and as staff in 2002 becoming the first Executive Director. The Florida Disabled Outdoors Association has grown to have multiple programs including the ALLOUT Adventure Program, Miracle Sports and RecConnect (Community-Based Therapeutic Recreation for People with a Brain or Spinal Cord Injury and SportsAbility.)

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law on July 26, 1990. The civil rights law makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of disability in employment, services of government , transportation, places of public accommodation, and commercial facilities. This includes leisure and recreation programs, services and activities. Society has recognized its responsibility to treat all people equal, and realizes the benefits of such. Passage of the ADA did not instantly fix the problem, but the law has created awareness of the issue and started the changes in accessibility that advocates have pushed for two decades. Progress and change will come from the very people who have disabilities and the groups that represent them. There is a need to provide input and assistance to the managers of our natural resources in planning and implementing accessible and barrier-free outdoor recreation programs. It is just as important is the need to inform the public of these opportunities.