For its 13th year in a row, people with disabilities and their friends can try out a variety of sports for free at the Sparks Marina on August 20. Named after the famed 2-time para-Olympian, filmmaker, author, and motivational speaker Mark Wellman, those who interested in trying out new activities now have their chance at Mark Wellman’s Adventure Day.
“Mark is the main sponsor and an inspiration as a professional paraplegic athlete,” says City of Sparks Recreation Supervisor Shauna Nelson. Becoming paralyzed in a mountain biking accident, Wellman overcame his condition and hasn’t stopped him from participating in the extreme sports that he loves.
Plus, not only will Wellman be on hand helping those get fitted for adaptive equipment in kayaking, rock climbing, sailing, and hand-cycling, it is rumored that Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto will be there.
“Her office has recognized the cause, which is exciting for us and the City of Sparks,” says Nelson.
“People in wheelchairs will have an opportunity to get out and do something different. It’s liberating for people to have access to this equipment and try out a sport that they might not have had a chance to on their own.”
Nelson noted that participation in Adventure Day grows a bit every year, but it all depends on the weather. “We usually get around 100 people, which is just the right size. It’s enough for people to feel comfortable in trying something new.”
“It’s amazing to me how many new faces I see every year,” Nelson says, which she attributes to social media, word-of-mouth, and extensive media outreach. Attendees generally come from California, Carson City, Fernley, and Gardnerville, but there have even been a couple of ladies from the East Coast who were in town and heard about the event. “They loved it,” Nelson says.
Since specialized equipment tends to be more expensive, many people with disabilities do not have regular access to gear which allows them to try out or do the sports they are passionate about. Therefore, those that attend Adventure Day usually come away feeling happy and grateful for the opportunity to be outside in an active environment.
“One woman who came to Adventure Day was a stroke victim and she wanted to try the climbing wall but the person she was with- her son or a caretaker- was very apprehensive of her getting on it. But the smile on her face when she was up on the wall- it was priceless. I think it made them both relax and realize the possibilities. (These activities) help people loosen up,” says Nelson.
“We want to get people up and out of their wheelchairs and try to expose them to activities that they can then go out and do on their own. The highlight for us is watching people do something they never thought they could do before in a safe, controlled environment.”
Mark Wellman’s Adventure Day will be held at the Sparks Marina on Sunday, August 20 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The free activities are made possible thanks to a grant received from the Nell J. Redfield Foundation.
To participate in kayaking, hand-cycling, sailing, and rock climbing activities, attendees are encouraged to come with close-toed shoes, wear sunscreen, and will be required to sign a waiver.