A first-of-its-kind sports program that offers recreational and competitive soccer to both youth and adults with physical disabilities and special needs will kick off this fall, thanks to San Antonio Scorpions FC net profits and a generous gift from The Boeing Co.
To be known as STRAPS (South Texas Regional Adaptive and Paralympic Soccer), the program will offer athletes from all age groups the opportunity to play in one of four programs depending on their ability – ambulatory/Paralympic soccer, wheelchair soccer, power soccer and Special Olympics soccer, said Gordon Hartman, CEO of The Gordon Hartman Family Foundation and head of Soccer for a Cause, the community-wide effort that brought professional soccer to San Antonio via the Scorpions FC of the North American Soccer League.
“From the very beginning of Soccer for a Cause and the creation of the Scorpions, we pledged all net profits from Scorpions operations would go to Morgan’s Wonderland to expand programs and services for the special-needs community,” Hartman said. “Today we begin to make good on that promise.
“Morgan’s Wonderland is a unique theme park, and the Scorpions franchise is also unique, the first in sports history to benefit a non-profit cause. I can’t say enough how proud I am of the Scorpions’ success both on and off the field during our inaugural season.”
At this morning’s STRAPS unveiling, Scorpions President Michael Hitchcock presented a $50,000 check of team net profits, while Dr. Mary Wise, Boeing San Antonio’s senior manager of human resources, presented another $50,000 check from the aerospace company’s Global Corporate Citizenship initiative to help the new soccer program get started.
“Boeing San Antonio is honored to be a part of another innovative program at Morgan’s Wonderland,” said Kevin Devine, Boeing San Antonio site leader. “Knowing that our investment will give veterans and people of all ages with physical and cognitive challenges the opportunity to come together and thrive is inspiring. We look forward to hearing about the lives that will be touched and forever changed by this unique experience.”
Hartman expressed his “profound gratitude” to Boeing and the Scorpions for the initial $100,000 in STRAPS funding to help offset the cost of indoor and outdoor facility use; the purchase of goals, nets and balls; the acquisition of several high-performance wheelchairs and powerchairs for demonstrations; the installation of bumpers to convert powerchairs for soccer play; and the recruitment of part-time coaches. He emphasized there will be no cost to participants during STRAPS’ first year that’s scheduled to begin in October with the formation of teams and the beginning of practices.
STRAPS will be under the direction of Wendy Gumbert, who for more than 20 years has been involved in adapted sports programs. She formerly served as national track team coach for U. S. Paralympics, and she assisted in the development of adapted sports at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. Hartman introduced the new sports director and said STRAPS is “fortunate to have an experienced, dedicated leader like Wendy Gumbert.”
He also indicated STRAPS’ goals include gaining recognition as a national center of excellence for adaptive and Paralympic soccer and becoming sanctioned by U. S. Paralympics as a national training center for Paralympic soccer.
“The advent of STRAPS is welcome and wonderful news for individuals with disabilities who want to greatly enrich their lives,” said Ross Davis of San Antonio, nine-time Paralympics medalist and former Indoor Wheelchair Soccer national champion and 2000 IWS most valuable player. “I think it’s terrific that STRAPS is open to all ages and abilities including wounded warriors and veterans. It has the full support of U. S. Paralympics, the Center for the Intrepid at Fort Sam Houston and the South Texas Veterans Health Care System.”
STRAPS will operate as a non-profit sports organization under SOAR (Sports Outdoor and Recreation), the umbrella organization that oversees Morgan’s Wonderland, the STAR (South Texas Area Regional) Soccer Complex and Monarch Academy school for students with special needs. SOAR and Gumbert will organize STRAPS programs with the assistance of Scorpions players and coaches.
The programs will focus on four areas that collectively cover the spectrum of disabilities:
· ambulatory/Paralympic soccer – For ambulatory athletes with mobility impairments such as amputations, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injuries, etc.;
· wheelchair soccer – For those with physical disabilities such as spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, spina bifida, muscular dystrophy, amputations, etc., who use manual wheelchairs and powerchairs;
· power soccer – For those with physical disabilities who use powerchairs;
· Special Olympics soccer – For special-needs athletes of all ages with cognitive issues such as Down Syndrome, autism, etc.
“STRAPS will bring soccer to an entirely new group of individuals who never knew they could play the game,” Hartman said. “Also it will help change the way people see the game of soccer and those with disabilities.”
More STRAPS information is available at www.MorgansWonderland.com by clicking on the STRAPS logo.
Unique and world-renowned Morgan’s Wonderland, which is completely wheelchair-accessible, features more than 25 elements and attractions including rides, playgrounds, gardens, an eight-acre catch-and-release fishing lake, 18,000-square-foot special-events center, 575-seat amphitheater, picnic area and rest areas. For more information, visit www.MorgansWonderland.com.
Boeing is the world’s largest aerospace company and leading manufacturer of commercial jetliners and defense, space and security systems. It operates a huge aircraft maintenance and modification facility at Port San Antonio and plays an active role in the community through its Global Citizenship initiative.