Paul's Note - May 12, 2023

I’ve got a soccer obsessed member of my staff who showed me a video of this year’s recipient of the Puskas Award, which is given to the best goal in world soccer in the past year. This year, a man named Marcin Oleksy won. He beat two men who scored in the World Cup and a woman who scored in the European Club Championship.

And he did it on one leg. It’s an amazing goal. Look it up on YouTube if you have time.

Oleksy plays in a league in Poland for amputees. I’ve been told that people in the hall were in tears when he was presented with the award.

I’ve learned a lot over the last couple of years about the importance of providing opportunities to athletes like Oleksy.

That’s why my staff and I were at Gridley Middle School this week to announce a gift of adaptive sports equipment from The Hartford group to our community.

The gift was $50,000 to Southern Arizona Adaptive Sports, a local service organization that seeks to make adaptive sports more accessible to all members of our community. They are affiliated with several national adaptive sports organizations and have been in operation since 2017.

The gift also included wheelchairs that were presented to a trio of young athletes at the event.

The event capped off a week of a special unit on adaptive sports that I helped develop for students at Gridley. It also featured a short game between the Gridley Grizzlies and a team of wheelchair athletes from the U of A as well as the Junior Wildcat program.

One thing that has been emphasized for me as I have worked on this is that a good adaptive sports program is not only good for those of different abilities, but also for the able bodied. The students learned a lot about the daily struggles of the disabled just through the simple act of having to get around in a wheelchair for an hour a day.

I’ve learned a great deal about what people with disabilities deal with in the last few years as I’ve gotten to know some amazing people (like my staff) who continue to challenge me.

This will not be a one-off. I’ve been working with Southern Arizona Adaptive Sports to get enough equipment and coaches to do this program in other schools city-wide.

I’d like to thank the people that came out to the event, including Mia Hansen, a long-time ace community activist who helps run Southern Arizona Adaptive Sports. We were also honored with the presence of Jenn Poist, a former wheelchair basketball player at the U of A who won a gold medal at the 2016 paralympics and Pete Hughes, the director of adaptive athletics at the U of A.

I look forward to all of our students having the opportunity to participate in this program.