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Shriners Children's Spokane's Adaptive Sports Program Opens Doors

Shriners Children's Spokane's legacy of engagement through adaptive sports

SPOKANE, Wash. – The 2020 Paralympics shined a light on world-class athletes in an unprecedented way. Both the Paralympic and Olympic games were played in Tokyo in 2021 after being delayed due to COVID-19. For the first time, the Paralympic Games were given the same amount of airtime on television as the Olympics. More eyes than ever before were on the athletes who have overcome challenges, showcasing their strength and ability to compete on an international stage. However, finding the motivation and courage for young children living with special needs to attempt the same activities can be difficult. It is something the specialists at the Spokane Shriners Children's hospital have worked for years to change. And their work paved the way for many young patients, turned athletes, to achieve their dreams.

More than 20 years ago in 1998, hospital specialists created the No Limits Adaptive Sports Clinic. It was a day planned, organized and facilitated by the recreation therapy department designed to motivate patients with mobility issues to participate in adaptive sports. The program was in place through 2007. At the time, it was one of the only programs of its kind in the region.

Organizer and Recreation Therapy Manager Carol Kaczka organized the yearly clinic to introduce patients to a world of sports they couldn’t access.

“It was all about providing them an opportunity to experience and widen their world,” said Kaczka.

Hospital specialists exposed many children living with physical disabilities to a variety of events, including bicycling, racing, tennis, golf, archery, basketball and more. Born out of that program is now a Paralympian gold medalist, a number of other athletes ranked among the best in the world, and some with full-ride college scholarships as student-athletes. All give credit to Shriners Children's Spokane for the knowledge, encouragement, and mental and physical support to attempt activities they once deemed impossible.

“I’m really proud of them for getting out of their skin and trying something new,” said Kaczka. “I’m proud of the Spokane Shriners Children's hospital for enabling patients and giving kids a venue to do that. It’s a sense of pride, but mostly for the kids that faced their challenges.”

Former patient Susannah Scaroni took home a gold and bronze medal during the 2020 Paralympic Games. This came after already proving she is an accomplished racer by setting the Bloomsday course record in 2019. Bloomsday is a popular 12k race in Spokane each spring drawing racers from all over the globe. Prior to that, she earned some of her first medals through the No Limits Adaptive Sports Clinic. Even with her status as the best in the world today, Scaroni still credits Shriners Children's Spokane for engaging her at a young age and setting her on a path of success.

Shriners Children's Spokane's legacy of engagement through adaptive sports

SPOKANE, Wash. – The 2020 Paralympics shined a light on world-class athletes in an unprecedented way. Both the Paralympic and Olympic games were played in Tokyo in 2021 after being delayed due to COVID-19. For the first time, the Paralympic Games were given the same amount of airtime on television as the Olympics. More eyes than ever before were on the athletes who have overcome challenges, showcasing their strength and ability to compete on an international stage. However, finding the motivation and courage for young children living with special needs to attempt the same activities can be difficult. It is something the specialists at the Spokane Shriners Children's hospital have worked for years to change. And their work paved the way for many young patients, turned athletes, to achieve their dreams.

More than 20 years ago in 1998, hospital specialists created the No Limits Adaptive Sports Clinic. It was a day planned, organized and facilitated by the recreation therapy department designed to motivate patients with mobility issues to participate in adaptive sports. The program was in place through 2007. At the time, it was one of the only programs of its kind in the region.

Organizer and Recreation Therapy Manager Carol Kaczka organized the yearly clinic to introduce patients to a world of sports they couldn’t access.

“It was all about providing them an opportunity to experience and widen their world,” said Kaczka.

Hospital specialists exposed many children living with physical disabilities to a variety of events, including bicycling, racing, tennis, golf, archery, basketball and more. Born out of that program is now a Paralympian gold medalist, a number of other athletes ranked among the best in the world, and some with full-ride college scholarships as student-athletes. All give credit to Shriners Children's Spokane for the knowledge, encouragement, and mental and physical support to attempt activities they once deemed impossible.

“I’m really proud of them for getting out of their skin and trying something new,” said Kaczka. “I’m proud of the Spokane Shriners Children's hospital for enabling patients and giving kids a venue to do that. It’s a sense of pride, but mostly for the kids that faced their challenges.”

Former patient Susannah Scaroni took home a gold and bronze medal during the 2020 Paralympic Games. This came after already proving she is an accomplished racer by setting the Bloomsday course record in 2019. Bloomsday is a popular 12k race in Spokane each spring drawing racers from all over the globe. Prior to that, she earned some of her first medals through the No Limits Adaptive Sports Clinic. Even with her status as the best in the world today, Scaroni still credits Shriners Children's Spokane for engaging her at a young age and setting her on a path of success.

Susannah at paralympics holding American flag

Former patient Susannah Scaroni at the 2020 Paralympic Games.

Other racers Hannah Dederick and Isaiah Rigo also made strong showings at the 2020 Paralympics. Both also finding their start in adaptive sports and wheelchair racing through Shriners Children's Spokane. Now, the two are teammates on the University of Urbana-Champaign wheelchair track team.

“I remember when Hannah started. She was shy and reticent, but she always would make videos of her experiences and share them. As her confidence grew through sports, she came out of her shell and ended up being the life of the party,” said Kaczka.

Today, many of our patients are encouraged to join Parasport Spokane, a year-round athletic program, coached by Teresa Skinner.

“For the first time they embrace their disability instead of trying to hide it,” said Skinner. “It changes how they see themselves, it changes how their family sees them, it changes everything. It opens up so many doors.”

Skinner started the program back in 2013 with just 13 participants. Today, Parasport supports about 100 athletes with room for more.

The Spokane Shriners Children's hospital is proud to embolden its patients and help navigate their journey into adaptive sports. We are continuously inspired by our patients’ hard work proving dreams can become realities. We know we have not seen the last of these athletes on the world stage and look forward to watching them succeed! Families curious or with questions about adaptive sports are encouraged to reach out to their Shriners Children's Spokane provider for more information.

Isaiah during competition

A young Isaiah competes at the No Limits Adaptive Sports Clinic

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Next Steps

Share Your Story

Our patients and families are at the heart of everything we do at Shriners Children's. We invite you to share how the team at Shriners Children's has helped your child.

Give to Shriners Children's

Through the generosity of donors like you, we've helped over one million children lead more fulfilling lives, regardless of their families' ability to pay.

Contact Us

Have a question or request? Need to make an appointment? We're here for you.