UCO Endeavor Games; No Barriers Summit

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UCO Endeavor Games Unite Novice and Elite Athletes

The 12th annual University of Central Oklahoma, Edmond, (UCO) Endeavor Games, held June 9-12, gave nearly 300 athletes the chance to compete in 11 sport competitions including archery, shooting, rowing, cycling, power lifting, sitting volleyball, ambulatory and wheelchair track and field, table tennis, swimming, and wheelchair basketball.

Photographs courtesy of the University of Central Oklahoma/Endeavor Games.

Athletes from four to 68 years old from across the country competed at all levels, from the novice athlete learning a sport to the elite athlete trying to qualify for the 2012 London Paralympics team, according to Leigha Joiner-Pemberton, sport programs coordinator for the UCO Wellness Center. This year's attendance exceeded last year's by 56 athletes, including 120 athletes who are veterans. Eighty-five military athletes competed in last year's games, she said.

"The games were one of the most successful to date," Joiner-Pemberton said. "We had a record number of athletes participating. This event offers a fun and exciting atmosphere where athletes of all abilities can come for great competition."

One of those athletes was Jeremy Campbell, 23, who got his start at the Endeavor Games in 2003.

"Since this event is where my career [as a Paralympian] started, I have a passion for its purpose," said Campbell, who was born without a fibula in his right leg. He won a gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics Games in the men's discus and pentathlon events. Campbell competed in the discus throw at the Endeavor Games.

"Each year [the Endeavor Games] get better and better, not only because of the athletes and the performances that continue to rise, but because of the family atmosphere and the relationships it creates," he said. "It keeps getting stronger year after year, which is a striving goal for the Olympics and Paralympics.

"All the athletes who come here are facing the same kind of adversities," Campbell added. "Our circumstances don't define us in a negative way, but ignite us for a greater cause beyond what we can even imagine."

The 2012 games will be held June 7-10.

No Barriers Summit: Athletes Don't Let Much Get in Their Way

Exclusive, live coverage by The O&P EDGE.

There wasn't much getting in the way of the more than 500 people who descended on Winter Park, Colorado, over the July 4th weekend to attend the 2011 No Barriers Summit. Not even the torrential rainstorm, which began just as opening ceremonies were getting under way on June 30, could dampen the spirits of athletes, volunteers, therapists, and caregivers.

Ronnie Dickson scales the rock-climbing wall. Photographs by Denise Faddis.

The Summit, held every two years, is a chance for people living with physical challenges, including amputations, paralysis, cerebral palsy, blindness, and deafness, to participate in adaptive outdoor sports and adventure clinics, such as cycling, golf, river rafting, skateboarding, and wall climbing. It is also a setting to showcase some of the latest advances in assistive technologies.

Even the entertainers on hand for the four-day event, which started at Squaw Valley, Idaho, in 2007, have their own challenges to overcome. Professional guitarist Mark Goffeney plays notes on the guitar like most other players-only he plays them with his feet. Goffeney, also known as "Big Toe," was born without arms. Comedian Josh Blue, the keynote speaker for the event, was born with cerebral palsy and brings awareness to his disability by making people laugh. Jordan Romero, 14, was the guest speaker for the Saturday-morning breakfast. When he was 13 years old, he became the youngest person to summit Mount Everest.

While the event gives those with physical challenges the chance to thrive, it also gives volunteers the chance to walk away from the event with a sense of fulfillment.

For example, first-time Summit volunteer Carol Puchalski helped people with special needs, especially those in wheelchairs, experience scuba diving, some for the first time.

"For someone in a wheelchair to be non-buoyant, to have no weight, that sense of freedom is huge," said Puchalski, a physical therapist with the Anchor Center for Blind Children, Denver, Colorado.

Evan Strong provides some pointers at the skateboarding clinic.

Amy Purdy, top-ranking adaptive snowboarder, founder of Adaptive Action Sports (AAS), and a bilateral transtibial amputee, was on hand photographing the skateboarding clinic, which AAS sponsored. AAS-affiliated competitive athletes Evan Strong and Oscar Loreto Jr. led the clinic.

Suzanne Nottingham works as a ski instructor at Mammoth Lakes in California, where she has been a resident since 1980. She also spends much of her free time volunteering at events such as the No Barriers Summit."There's nothing fragile about this market," she said. "Fragility is a misconception people without disabilities often have about those who do."

Also a personal trainer and a "movement educator," Nottingham teaches people to better understand how the body moves. She said those who attend events such as these come because they want to be there.

"People with disabilities want to help themselves," she said. "Everyone who comes here goes home with a glimmer of something better."