John Boyko heard what his physical therapists said, but he wasn’t about to listen.
“I was the kid who was always doing way more than my physical therapists at the time were comfortable with me doing,” Boyko said. “They’d say, ‘You can’t ride a bike,’ and I’d say, ‘Watch me.’ ”
Boyko, now 45, has cerebral palsy, the result of a bout with viral encephalitis when he was just 6 weeks old. The once headstrong youngster is now a physical therapist himself, but his adventurous nature hasn’t waned. And the Franklin resident has set out to share his love of adventure with others in the region by creating The Adaptive Adventure Sports Coalition/Miami Valley.
The local organization will be an affiliate of TAASC, which is headquartered in Columbus and is a chapter of Disabled Sports USA. Their goal is to connect individuals who have disabilities with volunteers and community organizations through adventure sports.
“Many people allow their disability to define them,” Boyko said. “This organization will allow people with disabilities to get out of their comfort zone. It will create a paradigm shift about what is truly possible.”
“If I can do this … ”
Disabled Sports USA was established in 1967 by disabled Vietnam veterans to serve those injured in the war. The organization now offers nationwide sports rehabilitation programs to anyone with a permanent disability. Activities include winter skiing, water sports, summer and winter competitions, fitness and special sports events. Participants include those with visual impairments, amputations, spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, head injury, cerebral palsy and other neuromuscular and orthopedic conditions.
The organization’s motto is “If I can do this, I can do anything,” a saying that Boyko has taken to heart.
“I’ve been on the top of a mountain more than once with that running through my head,” the avid skier said with a smile.
TAASC/Miami Valley will initially focus on outdoor activities such as kayaking, hiking and hand cycling. They will team up with the Columbus organization to hold water skiing and sailing clinics.
Connecting the community
With an extensive system of navigable waterways and resources like the Five Rivers MetroParks, the area is already a haven for those seeking outdoor fun and adventure. With the help of trained volunteers and adaptive equipment, TAASC/Miami Valley will help connect people who have disabilities to those opportunities.
“I have the unique perspective of looking at the community as someone who has a disability and also thoroughly understanding the importance of being active,” Boyko said. “My desire to promote adventure sports for people with disabilities comes out of my own interest in learning to kayak and my love of hiking.”
TAASC/Miami Valley has already reached out to the Adaptive Recreation Program at Wright State University as well as the Miami Valley Association of Disabled Athletes. The new organization will not offer the same activities but, rather, offer a whole new set of opportunities for those with disabilities.
“We aren’t planning to do competitive sports like wheelchair basketball,” Boyko said. “We are going to focus on adventure sports and empowering individuals to be able to engage in these activities independently from the group as they learn the necessary skills.”
From children to senior citizens, TAASC/Miami Valley activities will be open to a wide range of people with a variety of physical disabilities including but not limited to cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and spina bifida as well as amputees and those who have suffered spinal cord injuries or stroke.
“There is going to be a big emphasis on teaching skills,” Boyko said. “People will be able to take those skills and be active with their family and friends.”
The organization isn’t just for those with a disability. Family members and friends are also encouraged to participate in activities. Volunteers will also be utilized in the various programs.
“If you have the heart to help people overcome challenges and if you want to help people in tangible, impactful ways, then we want you to get involved,” Boyko said.
The fledgling organization will conduct a community meeting on April 17 at the MetroParks office. For additional information or to get involved, email Boyko at firstname.lastname@example.org or go online to www.taasc.org/.