Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Event Shows Archery, Golf, More for Disabled, Too

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Event Shows Archery, Golf, More for Disabled, Too

Article excerpt

Byline: Joe Julavits, Times-Union outdoors editor

Sportsability Jacksonville 2002, a free sports festival Friday and Saturday for people with disabilities, has its roots in a hunting accident that took place years ago.

David Jones of Tallahassee was shot in that accident when another hunter mistook him for a turkey. Jones sustained a head injury that left him paralyzed on his left side -- a sudden, jarring change in lifestyle for an active outdoorsman.

"I rode in a wheelchair for a year, which really gave me a perspective on life in a chair," Jones said. "I also learned how important recreation was in my rehabilitation process.

"I felt like I could not just survive, but I could contribute to society."

Sportsability is Jones' contribution, a program that introduces disabled people to various forms of outdoor recreation, everything from water skiing to archery to golf. Begun by Jones 10 years ago, the Sportsability program is now an annual affair in four cities -- Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Sarasota and Fort Lauderdale -- and it's growing every year.

This is the third year for the Jacksonville event, which will be held Friday from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Prime Osborn Convention Center and Saturday during the same hours at Victory Lake on the Westside. The festival is sponsored by the City of Jacksonville Disabled Services Division and the Brooks Health Foundation.

Jones, president of the non-profit Florida Disabled Outdoors Association, originally infused Sportsability with a theme of nature-based recreation. Since then, he has expanded the program to include such activities as tennis, hand-pedaled bikes and basketball. Experts in each field are brought in to instruct participants and give them hands-on experience.

"Because it's presented in a very professional way, they can try things that they never thought of doing, like shooting a bow or water sit-skiing," Jones said. "Some people have never had the chance to ride on a huntin' buggy or a pontoon boat.

"There's something out there at Sportsability that's going to touch you. People get involved, and all of a sudden they get passionate about living. …

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