Did you know that in addition to advocacy and program services, the Center for Disability Rights (CDR) sponsors an adaptive sports program for young individuals with disabilities? The Rochester Rookies Wheelchair and Ambulatory Sports Program, better known as the “Rochester Rookies,” has a 45 year history in the Greater Rochester community. While focusing on track and field training and competitions, other sports opportunities are also available.
As an adaptive sports program, the Rochester Rookies is about more than teaching athletic skills. Often described as a “life-changing experience,” disabled youth have opportunities for personal development, to gain leadership skills, and strengthen their self-advocacy. The athletes also gain independence from their families and develop their own identities. In turn, parents and families are able to connect with one another, and become more comfortable with their children’s growth.
A typical season for the Rochester Rookies entails weekly practices, a regional competition in New Jersey, and a national competition rotating throughout the country. While these are on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, the program has continued. The athletes work out at home with their families; the staff and volunteers virtually provide their guidance and support.
Ryan Chalmers, Program Director, adds, “Now more than ever, with COVID-19 preventing kids from participating in gym class or group activities, the equipment provided to the Rochester Rookies is pivotal to their overall health and wellbeing. This equipment gives our participants an opportunity not only to stay healthy and fit, but to feel like part of the team again. When kids are able to share with one another the different workouts they are able to do, when using this equipment, they start to feel that comradery that has been missing for almost a year. CDR has helped keep this program vibrant even during the current pandemic.”
CDR has procured grants to help cover the program costs, including most recently grants from the Golisano Foundation and the Rochester Area Community Foundation’s Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Legacy Fund for Youth Sports. In addition, the Rochester Rookies partner with The College at Brockport’s Adaptive Physical Education program for program space and student volunteer support.
This is the only track and field program of its kind in Western New York. Any disabled youth (ages 5 to 23) who are interested in physical fitness and camaraderie are welcome and encouraged to join! An e-mail form and phone number are provided on the webpage, http://therochesterrookies.org, for either indicating interest or to learn more about this program.