Adaptive Sports and Recreation Program Collaborates with Concordia Students

HOPE Inc. — sports and recreation for people with mobility challenges

HOPE Inc., an adaptive sports and recreation program in Moorhead, has a multifaceted relationship with Concordia College that reaches across campus with several recent events coordinated with the college including track, theatre, a physical education class, wheelchair basketball, and sled hockey.

Annual Adaptive Winter Track Meet

Two years ago, when HOPE held its annual adaptive winter track meet in Olson Forum, Marv Roeske, head coach for women’s track and field, reached out to offer his team to volunteer with the event.

Roeske said the track team assists with check-in, loading and unloading equipment, and handing out medals and ribbons. “But mostly it’s about being there and supporting them and cheering for them,” he said. “They love a big crowd and lots of noise. Our athletes are free to mingle and hang out with them between the races.”

“Our students are building relationships and experiences as they recognize the returners and meet the new kids,” Roeske added. “We have one young man from our teams that every year pushes the same boy in his chair in the one-lap, assisted race. It means as much to him as it does to the HOPE Inc. child. Once you experience the HOPE Inc. children and their families, they make your day and touch your life. It’s a team favorite service event.”

Theatre Program Producing “Treasure Island”

“This is also our second annual collaboration with the Concordia Theatre program and Theatre B,” said Kelly Buhr, office and program manager for HOPE Inc. “Our expertise lies closer to adaptive sports and not necessarily in theatre.”

Buhr said she reached out to Dr. David Wintersteen, professor and director of the theatre, to see if Concordia would be interested in assisting with HOPE’s Adaptive Theatre Program. He welcomed the opportunity and invited Theatre B to assist as well. Wintersteen is a co-founder of Theatre B along with his wife, Carrie, and several others.

“Concordia Theatre’s collaboration with Theatre B and HOPE Inc. has allowed undergrads to create relationships and share a love of theatre with the community in a unique way,” Wintersteen said. “It provides a great opportunity for students who plan to work in accessibility education and the arts.”

This year, the production is “Treasure Island” and includes HOPE Inc., Theatre B, and Concordia Theatre. The performances will be held in Concordia’s Lab Theatre at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 2, 6 p.m. Friday, March 3, and 11 a.m. Saturday, March 4.

Adaptive Physical Education Course

Concordia’s Dr. Kristen Ford, associate professor of education, reached out to the organization to present to her Adaptive Physical Education class and also lead an Adaptive P.E. class in which HOPE would introduce her students to an adaptive sport.

“We welcomed the opportunity to share our story and explain the services we offer and the families we serve,” Buhr said. “The following class we met for wheelchair basketball. We brought over 16 wheelchairs, and the students spent the hour playing wheelchair basketball — they had a blast! We hope to meet again and have the students play our HOPE Inc. wheelchair basketball team.” 

Ford said the opportunity for Concordia’s physical education and health teacher candidates to participate in wheelchair basketball was an experience they will never forget. “They are still talking about it!” she said. “Bill (Bill Grommesh, executive director of HOPE) graciously invited our students to participate in a future game of wheelchair basketball against some of the HOPE Inc. participants. My students can’t wait.”

“Bill and Kelly from HOPE Inc. are fabulous ambassadors for promoting challenging and enjoyable physical activities for participants of ALL abilities,” Ford added.   

Ford also said some of her students were even inspired to propose another great idea — they want to find a way to organize a “unified” physical activity experience in which students from Concordia are placed on teams along with HOPE participants and partake in physical activity experiences together on the same team.

“That inspiration is exactly the reaction we were hoping for from our students,” she added. “The physical education and health program at Concordia is dedicated to providing teacher candidates with pivotal and impactful experiences to help them see possibilities for their future students and inspire them to be champions for ALL people of ALL abilities.”  

Sled Hockey

HOPE Inc. also offers local community organizations and sports teams the opportunity to play sled hockey against its youth team, the Youth HOPE Inc. Hurricanes Sled Hockey Team. Buhr said Concordia welcomed the opportunity, and a variety of student-athletes took the ice — individuals from the golf, softball, and hockey teams participated.

Rebecca Quimby, head coach for women’s soccer, helped out with the sled hockey game and said, “It was fantastic to be able to compete against such a talented and hardworking group. It was fun and humbling, and everyone there was super friendly as we learned to play sled hockey for the first time. I am thankful our team was given the opportunity to participate and would love to do it again in a heartbeat!”

Breanna Nelson ’24 is one of the students who would love to play sled hockey against HOPE’s youth team again.

“Having the opportunity to play sled hockey against HOPE’s youth hockey was one of the most enjoyable, rewarding experiences I have been a part of,” Nelson said. “To let you in on a little secret, sled hockey is extremely challenging, and those we played against were quite skilled at it. They were so inspiring because they proved that being mobility challenged does not define them as a person, and it surely did not hold them back from winning a game of sled hockey against college students!”

About HOPE Inc.

“Our organization is headquartered in Moorhead, and our mission is to provide family friendly sporting and recreational opportunities critical to the health and development of children and adults living with mobility challenges,” Buhr said.

HOPE Inc., a 501c3 nonprofit organization, was founded on the belief that every child deserves to have sporting and recreational activities to participate in. What started as just five families in December 2005 has grown into a community of more than 180 families. Buhr hopes to spread the word about HOPE Inc. and encourages anyone who knows of individuals living with mobility challenges to give HOPE a try. HOPE Inc. offers year-round adapted programs for all ages and mobility challenges.

“We are loving this collaboration with Concordia,” Buhr added.

It sounds like the feeling is mutual for all involved.