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I Can Do Anything
by Garrett Valenzuela - gvalenzuela@dailysparkstribune.com
Jun 08, 2012 | 1748 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune/John Byrne - Joe Bohl, who lost the use of his legs in a skydiving accident, is a longtime volunteer at Mark Wellman’s Adventure Day, a yearly event at the Sparks Marina that gives people with special needs a chance to try adaptive sports. This year’s event will be held Sunday.
Tribune/John Byrne - Joe Bohl, who lost the use of his legs in a skydiving accident, is a longtime volunteer at Mark Wellman’s Adventure Day, a yearly event at the Sparks Marina that gives people with special needs a chance to try adaptive sports. This year’s event will be held Sunday.
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SPARKS — Joe Bohl swears he was about 15 feet from the ground when he pulled his parachute. His friends said he was about 30 or 40 feet off the ground. He remembers the glare of the sun in his face before he propped himself on his elbows to peer down at his legs.

“Well Joe, you broke your back,” Bohl said as he reenacted the fateful skydiving accident that damaged his spinal chord. He lied on the ground near the Stead airfield awaiting the arrival of a piece of plywood and some duct tape before he was transported to a hospital, where they then confirmed he would have little use of his legs for the rest of his life.

The crash was a result of his parachute deployment being too soon (about 40 feet from the ground) and causing his legs to thrust into the air and his back to hit the ground first.

In rehab for his injury, which is described as an incomplete spinal chord or spinal chord adema, Bohl met Bob Vogel — whom he calls his “BV booster,” the person who made him understand the outlook on life he currently holds.

“He basically told me to focus on what I can do instead of what I can’t do,” Bohl said. “So now I count my lucky stars that I am able to do all the things I can today. It’s more of a ‘glass half full’ sort of thing.”

Bohl is one of many volunteers and supporters of Mark Wellman’s Adventure Day at the Sparks Marina, which kicks off at 10 a.m. Sunday and goes until until 2 p.m., and the opportunity it brings to disabled people.

“It gives (participants) an opportunity to get out of their wheelchair and still be mobile,” said Shauna Nelson, event coordinator for the city of Sparks Parks and Recreation Department. “Maybe they will find something they can do on their own once they try it out here.”

The 10th annual Adventure Day will feature sailing, kayaking, hand-cycling and rock climbing for disabled children and adults at no cost. Along with a grant from the Nell J. Redfield Foundation, volunteers and disabled recreation enthusiasts will provide the adapted sports equipment. According to Nelson, last year’s event brought in more than 100 people and she expects they will find similar success this year.

“Some of the activities may seem intimidating to some of the newcomers, but we let them observe for as long as they want and usually they end up trying at least one thing,” Nelson said.

Bohl has been a volunteer with the program since its inception 10 years ago and also volunteers as a sailing instructor for Sierra Nevada Community Sailing at the Sparks Marina docks, where he thrives on aiding in the physical activity of others.

“I have been a supporter of recreation all my life,” Bohl said. “It is very important for people who become disabled to get back out there and continue their activities and education.”

Adventure Day has been adapted from a smaller program that was based around water sports for disabled people, originally held at Pyramid Lake. The event became much more popular with the aid of well-known paraplegic Mark Wellman.

Wellman changed outdoor sports for disabled athletes after recovering from a freak accident in 1982, when he then became the first disabled man to climb El Capitan, a 3,000-foot rock in Yosemite National Park. Wellman continued setting unprecedented records by climbing Half Dome at Yosemite and many other Sierra Nevada peaks.

As the 25th anniversary of Bohl’s accident approaches on June 14, he reflects on athletes such as Wellman who have committed their time and energy to inspiring others to continue being active.

“(Adventure Day) is an opportunity to try new things and see what activities are out there,” Bohl said. “We want to provide that inclusivity for kids to feel they can compete with their friends. Like the Disabled Sports USA slogan says, ‘If I can do this, I can do anything.’ ”
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I Can Do Anything by Garrett Valenzuela - gvalenzuela@dailysparkstribune.com


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