Paralympian Kelsey LeFevour Teaching Chicago Teens in After School Matters’ Adaptive Sports Program
April 10, 2023
CHICAGO – After School Matters, in partnership with the Chicago Park District and Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, offered a fully adaptive sports program for Chicago teens last week. The program provided local teens with and without disabilities opportunities to engage with their peers and learn skills in wheelchair basketball, wheelchair football, and track and field. The week-long spring break program ran from April 3-6 and was led by mentor instructor and Chicagoan Kelsey LeFevour, a two-time Paralympian in track and field.
Teens in the program gained an understanding of Chicago’s rich history as part of the disability rights movement, and what it means to be part of the adaptive sports community. The program was for young people of all abilities, including teens with or without physical disabilities.
Ms. LeFevour, a graduate of Chicago’s Resurrection High School and the University of Illinois, is a two-time Paralympian, having participated in the 2016 Games in Rio and the 2020 Games in Tokyo, both times for track events. Born with spinal deformities scoliosis, kyphosis and diastematomyelia, LeFevour had never participated in competitive wheelchair racing until enrolling at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 2007. There, she began wheelchair sports to help build her confidence and self-esteem. Today, she is pursuing her PhD in sports management at the University of Illinois and is an adjunct professor of special needs planning at The American College of Financial Services.
Throughout its 31-year history, After School Matters has consistently prioritized creating inclusive programs that allow all teens to participate regardless of their physical or learning disabilities. After School Matters ensures all participating teens have a safe space and are equipped with the right resources and mentors to fit their learning style.
“This After School Matters fully adaptive sports program provides inclusive after-school programing for young people to learn, grow, and meet peers from across the city,” said Ryan Juguan, After School Matters Human Resource Partner and creator of the adaptive sports program. “If it wasn’t for wheelchair basketball, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Adaptive sports allowed me to obtain my education at the University of Illinois, play with Team USA, and feel comfortable in my own skin.”
The Adaptive Sports Program was offered in partnership with After School Matters, the Chicago Park District and the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab. The program took place at Rainbow Beach Park in Chicago South’s Shore neighborhood, with equipment and expertise support through the AbilityLab.
“The Chicago Park District is thrilled to work with After School Matters and Shirley Ryan AbilityLab to collectively provide resources and bring awareness to adaptive sports, knowing the positive impact it has on youth athletes,” said Chicago Park District Superintendent & CEO Rosa Escareño. “Through this partnership, our goal is to accommodate everyone who wishes to participate and create an inclusive environment for all participants to thrive.”
“Adaptive sports programs serve as a gateway for kids to unlock their potential and advance their ability,” said Derek Daniels, director of Adaptive Sports and Fitness at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab. “We are thrilled to collaborate with After School Matters and the Chicago Park District on this innovative initiative.”
The Adaptive Sports Program is one of several paid program opportunities offered to Chicago high school teens during spring break and throughout the year through After School Matters. The After School Matters’ application for summer programs is now open, offering opportunities to thousands of Chicago high school teens in the arts, communications and leadership, sports, and STEM. Programs begin June 26 and will take place at locations across the city, as well as through select remote options. Teens interested in applying can visit afterschoolmatters.org.
There is no cost to apply to After School Matters, and teens earn money for their participation. The amount earned in each program depends on the participants age, level of expertise required for the program, and weekly hours of program.
About After School Matters
After School Matters is a nonprofit organization that provides world class, after-school and summer opportunities to Chicago public high school teens to explore their passions and develop their talents, while gaining critical skills for work, college, and beyond. After School Matters programs are project-based, led by industry experts, and provide a pathway to progress in skills development and independence. Teens earn a stipend while participating in programs in the arts, communications and leadership, sports, and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). Over the span of three decades, After School Matters has engaged more than 400,000 teens throughout the city of Chicago. www.afterschoolmatters.org
About Shirley Ryan AbilityLab
Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, formerly the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC), is the global leader in physical medicine and rehabilitation for adults and children with the most severe, complex conditions — from traumatic brain and spinal cord injury to stroke, amputation and cancer-related impairment. The organization expands and accelerates leadership in the field that began at RIC in 1953. The quality of its care has led to the designation of “No. 1 Rehabilitation Hospital in America” by U.S. News & World Report every year since 1991. Upon opening in March 2017, the $550 million, 1.2-million-square-foot Shirley Ryan AbilityLab became the first-ever “translational” research hospital in which clinicians, scientists, innovators and technologists work together in the same space, surrounding patients, discovering new approaches and applying (or “translating”) research real time. This unique model enables patients to have 24/7 access to the brightest minds, the latest research and the best opportunity for recovery. Shirley Ryan AbilityLab is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization. For more information, go to www.sralab.org.
About the Chicago Park District
The Chicago Park District has served Chicago residents for more than 85 years. It is a Gold Medal Award-winning organization, which recognizes excellence in park and recreation management across the nation. For more information about the Chicago Park District’s more than 8,800 acres of parkland, more than 600 parks, 26 miles of lakefront, 12 museums, two world-class conservatories, 16 historic lagoons, over 75 nature areas, thousands of special events, sports and entertainment programs, please visit www.chicagoparkdistrict.com or contact the Chicago Park District at 312/742.PLAY or 312/747.2001 (TTY). Want to share your talent? Volunteer in the parks by calling, 312/742.PLAY. Follow us on Facebook @ChicagoParkDistrict and on Instagram and Twitter @chicagoparks.
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