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Reaching the top
by Nathan Orme
Jun 13, 2010 | 953 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
<a href=>Tribune/Debra Reid</a> - Jacob Schnog, 10, a victim of autism, reacts as he is hoisted skyward during Mark Wellman's Adventure Day on Sunday, June 13, 2010.
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SPARKS — To people with disabilities, seemingly small tasks can be as difficult as climbing a mountain.

On Sunday at the annual Mark Wellman's Adventure Day at the Sparks Marina, those folks got the chance to face the mountain and beat it — with a little help from people who love them.

The annual event gives people of all ages with various handicaps the chance to climb, kayak, sail or cycle using equipment modified to enable them where their bodies fail them. Wellman, an adventure athlete who was paralyzed from the waist down in 1982 in a climbing accident, has been hosting the event at the marina for more than five years. Since becoming wheelchair-bound, he has climbed El Capitan and skied across the Sierra Nevada Mountains with just his arms.

"We come here and for a little child with cerebral palsy, this is their El Capitan," Wellman said, pointing to the 50-foot rock climbing wall outfitted with special apparatus to enable disabled people to scale it.

Reno mother Emily Husted watched her son, 12-year-old Ben Sharp, who has cerebral palsy, pull himself up the wall Sunday morning using just his arms. Ben was hoisted from his wheelchair in a harness but from there it was up to him to use his own strength to get all the way to the top and ring a bell. Part of the adventure, Wellman said, is to make the tasks challenging but also accomplishable.

"We're really grateful for it. It's really important," Husted said of programs like Wellman's Adventure Day and those put on by the city of Reno for children like Ben. "It's really important."

Ben keeps active by playing wheelchair basketball and tennis, his mother said, and the activities give him both physical and social stimulation.

"If it wasn't for these programs he'd be left with video games," she said.

The free event is funded by a grand from the E.L. Cord Foundation and is organized by Sparks Parks and Recreation. Besides the activities, several vendors were on hand selling specialty equipment for the disabled.

Among them was Trevor Snowden, a former snowboarder who fractured his T12 vertebrae in 1997 and has been in a wheelchair ever since. In 1998, he began competing in wheelchair racing and soon realized the chair needed to be modified to suit his competitive nature. Since then, the Gardnerville resident has started Dynamotion manufacturing and he is about to receive his patent on his specially designed Trevair Chair, which features a 7 1/2-inch suspension for rough terrain and a detachable motor that can go up to 20 mph.

To him, being able to satisfy his need for speed and adventure is what all people with disabilities yearn for: freedom.

"You know that old saying 'More power to you'?" Snowden said. "We take that literally."

Sparks neighbors Laura Parker and Cheryl Baptista brought their children to Adventure Day: Jackson, 10, and Joshua, 18, respectively. They watched their sons kayak with their sisters and talked about the upcoming sports seasons their sons will participate in. Joshua, who is developmentally delayed and has epilepsy, is friends with Jackson, who has cerebral palsy, and often helps the young children in his baseball league who tend to get bored or distracted and sit down in the outfield, his mother said. Both Parker and Jackson said one of the great things about the leagues in which their children play is that the parents are so much more well behaved. There is no pressure and it is much less competitive, with "no bad parents," Jackson said.

"It's how sports should be for every kid," she added.
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