Each October we celebrate the many contributions of America’s workers with disabilities as part of Disability Employment Awareness Month. The theme of this year’s campaign, “My disability is one part of who I am,” could not ring more true. People are not defined by their disabilities, and this campaign focuses more on what people can do.

When you think of a disability, your mind is immediately drawn to disabilities that can be seen, but what about disabilities such as illness or injuries? Statistically speaking, nearly 1 in 4 of today’s 20 year-olds will become disabled before they retire.1 This statistic may be shocking and hard to imagine, but that’s where services like Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana (RHI) come into play.

Lexi with BallRHI recognizes that everyone has a unique situation, regardless of diagnosis, illness or injury and provides personalized, compassionate care that aids in regaining independence after a life-changing injury or illness. Not only does RHI lead the practice of rehabilitative medicine through translation research, patient-centered care and holistic training, they go the extra mile to create a treatment plan specific to the patient–ranging from inpatient and outpatient treatment to follow-up services to ensure that treatment path stays on track.

In addition to the rehabilitation programs, RHI’s Sports Program offers many recreational and competitive opportunities to individuals with physical disabilities as well. These disabilities range from spinal cord injuries, amputees, Spina Bifida, Cerebral Palsy, Spinal Muscular atrophy, visual impairments and more. Over the past decade The Sports Program has offered quad rugby, wheelchair basketball, power soccer, water skiing, track and swimming, beep baseball, wheelchair tennis, wheelchair fencing, and archery which have all grown into staple programs of RHI Sports.

Nick OmanWhile RHI has a wide-range of success stories, one they shared with us was particularly special. With a year of high school left, one patient was making decent grades, was active in dirt bike racing and had great friends. Suddenly his life changed when he was involved in a bad accident, which resulted in a spinal cord injury. He underwent intense therapy, but managed to overcome his challenges and finish his treatment and get back into school. Prior to his accident, he was an active teen and decided to maintain his lifestyle, regardless of his injury, and started playing wheelchair basketball. While basketball had never been his sport of choice, he surprised many by dedicating himself to his new sport and traveling over an hour each weekend to make practices, while also focusing his attention on his schoolwork to improve his grades. This newfound dedication to basketball and his schoolwork did wonders for his confidence, social skills, physical health and goals and led to a scholarship to play wheelchair basketball out-of-state. He accepted the scholarship as a way to progress forward in his life and is still a wheelchair basketball player at Southwest Minnesota State University.

His story is just one of many showing how RHI and The Sports Program has helped their patients regain hope and independence. Many individuals of the Program–whether living with a born disability or acquired–sometimes experience difficulty socially and physically finding a job that is a right fit. Therefore, RHI’s Sports Program offers social and job networking, confidence building and an improved quality of life for all participants.

water skier 3Local organizations have the opportunity to get involved in many different capacities–one of which being an annual Vision of Victory Gala and Golfing for Sport event to help raise money for its program and teams. RHI offers many sponsorship opportunities as a way for local organizations to get involved including the gala and golf outing, as well as home tournaments, camps, team sponsorships and more. Many of the participants later reach out to the sports program when searching for internships and job opportunities, and RHI is always looking to point them in the direction of a positive atmosphere where they can find meaningful employment.

If your business is located in Indiana, we encourage you to reach out to RHI and see how you can get involved! To get involved with volunteer with RHI contact would be Jim Graham, 317-329-2020. To get involved with the sports program contact Addy King 317-329-2281, rhisp@rhin.com.

1. http://www.disabilitycanhappen.org/chances_disability/disability_stats.asp

Jaime Costilow
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