Joel Berman, chosen from a from a pool of more than 1,500 candidates nominated through the White House web site, was selected as a Champion of Change for the positive impact he is making in his community.
When I started Adaptive Adventures in 1999, I did it for reasons that were personal to me. In 1983, I lost my leg in a rail accident in Chicago, Illinois. I had always been an active individual and I knew I would need to fight to stay active and find the freedom offered through sports that I had experienced throughout my life.
Searching for such opportunities made me realize that there were very few organizations that catered to providing sporting opportunities to the physically disabled. Hence, in 1999, I co-founded Adaptive Adventures, whose mission is to identify, promote, and provide progressive sports and recreation opportunities to improve the quality of life for children, adults, and veterans with physical disabilities. Our agency is driven by its belief in ‘freedom through mobility’ and core values of affordability, independence, and leadership. By adapting equipment and training to the specific abilities of individual participants, people of all abilities have the opportunity to partake in our all season sports programs on all levels.
Adaptive Adventures’ primary sports include skiing, cycling, kayaking, water-skiing/wakeboarding and whitewater rafting. In 2011, Adaptive Adventures served over 1,000 participants nationally. When an individual with a disability participates in a sport, the actual sport is only a small part of the benefit. Research shows that adaptive sports programs provide a number of short-term quality of life benefits including physical activity, socialization, and skill development. More importantly, individuals experience long-term positive benefits from these activities, including increased self-confidence and self-esteem, and improved overall health and wellness.
In the last few years, Adaptive Adventures has shifted its focus to provide greater access to program services by two groups: children and veterans with disabilities. We are the largest provider of recreational opportunities for recently wounded veterans in the Midwest and Colorado regions, ensuring that our nation’s heroes have a way to transition back to a healthy and active lifestyle, providing much needed support both physically and mentally.
I hope to personally be able to continue leading this charge for many years to come, helping all individuals with physical disabilities find their freedom through mobility. Things in life always seem to happen for a reason. I feel that even though the road I follow was changed by my accident, my life has actually been enhanced by the challenges I have faced and the real improvements I have been able to provide forthousands of individuals with physical disabilities. I am honored to have been selected as a White House Champion of Change.
Joel Berman is the Founder and Executive Director of Adaptive Adventures.