Amputees Look Forward to 3,500-Mile Trip Across USA

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Jerry Suggs (left), John Keating (center), and Joe Sapere are rarin' to go.

Skydiving and biking 50 miles a day spell adventure for anyone. Now combine this with traveling across the USA for six weeks. Now suppose you have lost one or more limbs. Three guys are planning to do just this: Joe Sapere, a retired Air Force officer; Jerry Suggs, a retired Navy chief petty officer, and John Keating, who is raising three boys.

Being older hasn't slowed Joe and Jerry; Joe is in his late 60s and Jerry is in his 70s. John is a "youngster" in his 30s. Joe lost a foot in a skydiving accident, Jerry lost a leg due to vascular problems, and John lost both an arm and a leg in an electrical accident in Sweden.

The objectives of the Amputees Across America (AAA) tour is to inspire confidence in other amputees and to raise awareness of the difficulties amputees face when seeking the best medical and prosthetic care for their lifestyles. Joe, Jerry, and John also hope to establish a foundation to assist other amputees with limited or no insurance coverage for prostheses.

Their trip begins June 8th in Newport Beach, California, and ends July 21 at Jamestown Island, Virginia. Besides biking and skydiving, the trio plans to visit 15 HealthSouth rehabilitation facilities and many amputee support groups to encourage and share with other amputees.

"Now that the trip is just around the corner, we are excited about starting," says Joe. "We know we are going to meet a lot of friendly and interesting people."

The trio will be traveling with three support vehicles: one truck and two RVs-one to follow each rider. Collectively they will cover 150 miles a day, each rider taking a 50-mile segment. They will be staying in motels and RVs along the way. Some of the support groups will provide motel rooms as the group passes through their towns.

"Ohio Willow Wood is generously providing the main part of our financial support for operational costs, such as gasoline and lodging," Joe said. Friends and relatives also are assisting, he added. HealthSouth is providing logistic support and coordinating visits with local groups and media. Other sponsors include Alabama Artificial Limb and Orthopedic Services, Progressive Prosthetic & Orthopedic Service, and Williamsburg Orthotics & Prosthetics.

"We are stopping at skydiving centers and making charity jumps to commemorate the amputees of note that we meet," Joe said. "We are also making ourselves available to local amputee support groups to help them raise funds for programs."

Joe added, "We know also that we are going to feel humbled by the achievement of many of the amputees we meet."

Visit www.amputeesacrossamerica.com to track the progress of or contribute funds to Joe, Jerry, and John as they travel across the country. The website details the route and scheduled rehab and hospital visits.

NSCD Presents Adapted Sport Symposium
The latest advances in the disabled sports industry will be presented during the 16th Annual National Sports Center for the Disabled (NSCD) Adapted Sports Symposium June 4-9 at Winter Park Resort, Colorado, and July 11-15 at Timberline, Oregon.

The symposium covers all aspects of the adapted sports field, from creating an adapted sports program and recruiting volunteers to marketing and enhancing programs through technology. Sessions for the 2002 symposium include classroom courses as well as hands-on clinics for winter and summer sports, including skiing, snowboarding, hiking, fishing, cycling, and rock climbing.

The Winter Park symposium will include "Understanding Typical and Atypical Gait Patterns in Children," "Virtual Reality as a Tool in Therapeutic Recreation," and "Sports after Spinal Cord Injury," along with other topics. The Timberline symposium includes "Magic of Movement Analysis," "Fun with Four-Track," "Cross-Discipline Outrigger Use," "Skiing Skills for Thrills," and "Riding Unrestricted," as well as other subjects.

There is still time to register for the Timberline Symposium. Registration must be received by June 17th.

For more information or a registration form, contact Beth Fox, NSCD education and outreach coordinator, via ph: 970.726.1646; e-mail: bfox@nscd.org .