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Getting Every Body Moving

By Lauren Del Sarto
Athletes experience a variety of scenic destinations.

There is a new non-profit in the Coachella Valley serving all of Riverside County by offering wellness and sport opportunities for those with disabilities. Palms to Pines Parasports (PPP) was founded in June of last year with the purpose of providing competitive and recreational opportunities for people with disabilities while instilling a lifelong passion for wellness.  

Sport equipment is adjusted for all abilities.

The volunteer-run organization offers an array of weekly activities ranging from online meditation to cycling, archery, basketball and boccia in collaboration with the Desert Recreation District (DRD), among other organizations. Participants include people with physical disabilities as well as those with developmental considerations.

“We felt there could be more offered for those who face challenges when it comes to getting outdoors and enjoying all our area has to offer,” says co-founder Michael Rosenkrantz whose work with people with disabilities began overseas. When he returned to the U.S. in 2016, he thought there would be substantial opportunities for this population but found that wasn’t the case. He and his wife moved to the Coachella Valley over a year ago, and his work with Desert Ability Center locally opened his eyes to the potential throughout Riverside County.

“Our area has a lot of resources, and there is room to grow more opportunities for this population,” he says. “One of PPP’s goals is to develop collaborations to maximize these opportunities.” 

A 15-member board that includes several parasport athletes develops the programs and partnerships. Some of the current Coachella Valley collaborations beyond DRD include Desert ARC, Building Bridges CV, Leaps Services, United Cerebral Palsy of the Inland Empire and Friends of the Desert Mountains.   Many more partnerships are in the works, including with municipalities.  

While some participants bring their own equipment, specialized items like handcycles and sports wheelchairs, along with general gear, including racquets, archery bows and basketballs, are provided by DRD and volunteers. Classes are taught by volunteer experts in their sport, many trained to work with the disabled; online meditations are led by Rosenkrantz.

Activities are slated for six days a week with flexibility for COVID restrictions. A weekly Facebook Live meeting takes place each Friday at 9 a.m. to let the community know what activities will be taking place, all under DRD’s COVID guidelines. 

PPP has also formed a team to participate in the 23rd annual Tour de Palm Springs, taking place as a virtual event this year on February 20. 

“Sports are an entry point to help people grow, and it is very rewarding,” adds Rosenkrantz, “but it’s also about wellness. Getting people out of the house and moving is good for both body and mind, and teaches many life lessons.”

Palms to Pines Parasports puts athletes first.  “This is about ensuring that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else,” says Rosenkrantz.  As the organization’s website states, they “go to extraordinary lengths to identify potential and current athletes and meet them where they are on their life journey, engaging with them and their families on the playing field, in rehab facilities, hospitals, their homes and any other location that is comfortable.”

Athletes enjoy tennis and pickleball, popular activities offered by Palms to Pines Parasports.

Barb Gregory, whose son Brian participates in several sports, said, “My son’s energy level is improving. He is eager to get to the park and enjoy the fresh air while actively engaged with friends in sports. While we appreciate the wonderful Zoom programs he has been attending, I notice he has more life and enthusiasm now that he has been in outside adaptive sports.”

“We are very excited about all of the opportunities opening up for this population locally,” states Rosenkrantz. “Life is a series of doors and windows, and you make things happen by stepping through. For me, it’s been a path of service that I am passionate about.” 

For more information and a schedule of events, call Michael Rosenkrantz at (760) 469.9207 or email pppmiker@palmstopinesparasports.org. Visit
www.palmstopinesparasports.org

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