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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Illinois Disabled athletes compete in Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association event : June 13, 2011

Disabled athletes compete in GLASA event :
By Stephanie Kohl skohl@pioneerlocal.com June 13, 2011

The Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association of Lake Forest held the 2011 Great Lakes Regional Games from June 10-12 at Lake Zurich High School and the Foglia YMCA.

The games welcomed more than 200 participants ages six and older including youth, adults and injured service members with a physical disability or visual impairment. Coming from all over the Midwest, participants competed in swimming, track, field, archery, weight lifting, hand cycling, boccia and table tennis. The events were qualifying games for the National Junior Disability Championship on July 17-23 in Saginaw, Mich.

Team GLASA is the largest team competing in the state with 28 members competing in the paralympic events. Members of the team train for the competitive events.

“We saw the need in the community,” said Keri Schindler, program director for GLASA, of hosting the games. Last year, GLASA hosted the national games at Lake Forest High School and at Deerfield High School, which helped boost awareness of the games.

Although not competing, Gina Debenedetti, of Channahan, near Joliet, was in attendance Friday to check out the archery and weightlifting competitions. Although she has been on swim teams with GLASA, there really aren’t many organizations that offer similar events and programs near her home.

Debenedetti, who will be a high school senior in the fall, said she is interested in track events as well as getting into cycling. Watching the archery competition was interesting for her because she has participated in archery at Camp Independence, part of the Illinois Spina Bifida Association.

Mary Griffith, a recent Mundelein High School graduate, to cheer on her friend Melanie Watson in the archery competition. Griffith has participated in the games in the past in track, swimming and 3-on-3 wheelchair basketball events. She has cerebral palsy.

“It’s hard,” she said. “It’s definitely hard, especially balancing between school work and academics and the athletics,” Griffith said, adding she will join the wheelchair basketball team at University of Illinois when she attends school there in the fall.

She has participated in GLASA programs for about 10 years.

“I’m really happy with GLASA and how they’ve helped people participate just like all their other peers, just in a different way,” Griffith said.

Watson, a 16-year-old from Oconomowoc, Wis., and member of Team GLASA, planned to participate in archery as well as several track and field events including the 100 meter, 200 meter, 400 meter, 800 meter and 1,500 meter races. She’s been with GLASA for about eight years.

“With GLASA, (practice) is pretty much once a week, but I’m pretty motivated so I try to do stuff on my own, too,” Watson said.

Although born with spina bifida, she’s never let it get in the way of doing anything.

“I’ve just never looked at myself as having a disability,” she said.

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