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Witness Testimony of Michael Charles Boone, Director, Adaptive Sports Iowa, Iowa Sports Foundation, Ames, IA

Chairman Stutzman, Ranking Member Braley and Members of the Subcommittee, I appreciate and am humbled to appear before you today to discuss the partnership between the United States Olympic Committee: Paralympic Division and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

I’ve never had the honor to serve within the United States military. As a citizen of this country I cannot express enough the gratitude I have for the sacrifice these honorable men and women of our armed forces make. As a professional in the adaptive sports industry, I realized that I can have an impact on the lives of those who have come home with a physical disability. The opportunities I can provide will have a positive effect on the quality of life for both the injured members and their families.

Prior to 2010, the state of Iowa lacked the organization and infrastructure to support the development of a successful and sustainable sport and recreation program for the physically disabled. The Iowa Sports Foundation recognized this need and our ability to fill the void. Our organization possesses the leadership and organization to make a difference within the state of Iowa and serve as a catalyst for change.

Adaptive Sports Iowa is our answer to Iowa’s need for adaptive sport and recreation programming. Officially kicking off in March 2011, Adaptive Sports Iowa was established with the mission of creating, organizing and promoting sport and recreation opportunities for Iowa’s physically disabled population. The Adaptive Sports Iowa Summit, our kickoff event, was held with the intention of bringing together like-minded organizations, groups and individuals within the state of Iowa. I would like to personally thank Congressman Braley for sending a member of his staff to this event. The Adaptive Sports Iowa Summit was intended to introduce our new program to the public and to be a forum to discuss and gather information on the needs of Iowa’s physically disabled population. The Summit was a tremendous success and produced positive results that have helped guide Adaptive Sports Iowa as we continue to plan future programs.

As a part of the Summit, we were honored to host Charlie Hubener, Chief of U.S. Paralympics. Mr. Hubener came to observe the event and to present Adaptive Sports Iowa with a $25,000 grant from the U.S. Paralympics and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. This grant allowed for us to purchase new equipment and begin a program that would target physically disabled veterans in the state of Iowa.

With the promise of that grant money, we launched Operation: ASI, a program specially intended for Iowa’s physically disabled veterans. To assist in the planning and coordination of the new program we formed a committee to oversee it. The committee was comprised of representatives from the Iowa National Guard, the Central Iowa Veterans’ Affairs Health Care System, Paralyzed Veterans of America-Iowa Chapter and myself.

According to a Cornell University report, in 2009 close to five percent of Iowa’s 139,000+ veteran population live with a service-connected disability[1]. That accounts for more then 18,000 physically disabled veterans living in Iowa. This is a significant number of people who could take advantage of Operation: ASI.

We held our first event on July 9, 2011 which was set up as an expo to introduce veterans to a variety of different activities. We had stations for golf, hand cycling and so that an individual could “sample” each activity as well as a display for target shooting.

The partnership between the US Paralympics and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs is an important and successful collaboration with great potential. Nationally, there are organizations that provide adaptive sports and recreation programs in their respective communities and regions. The overwhelming majority of these organizations work independently from each other with limited communication and collaboration between organizations. US Paralympics is in the unique position to provide the necessary leadership and guidance to these organizations to assist in the development of nationwide grass roots support system. We attribute much of the success of Adaptive Sports Iowa to this same concept. Prior to the existence of Adaptive Sports Iowa, adaptive sports and recreation opportunities were extremely limited within Iowa. Upon further research and examination into the needs of Iowa, we determined that the pieces were in place to create our organization. Overall, the need was there but the leadership was not. By providing that leadership we have experienced tremendous success within our programs.

There are a couple areas of improvement I suggest the subcommittee examine to improve this partnership:

  1. The US Paralympics has the passion, organization, and resources to provide opportunities to demographics that the Department of Veterans Affairs is targeting to serve. It is in the best interest of those veterans that these two organizations continue to work together. I do see opportunity for this relationship to develop. For example, The Iowa Sports Foundation’s fiscal years ended on September 30. To date, our 2011 grant awarded to us in March from the Department of Veteran’s affairs has not yet arrived. Adaptive Sports Iowa is fortunate to be part of an organize that could support the purchases and commitments we made to begin Operation: ASI but that is not the case for most adaptive sports organizations.  
  1. There is a need to more efficiently disseminate information regarding our programs to disabled veterans. Informing younger and recently disabled veterans has been a significant stumbling block for our organization. When a physically disabled soldier returns home following rehab there is currently no way for our organization to inform them of our programming opportunities. An easy and immediate improvement to this partnership is to establish a way for soon-to-be released rehabbing soldiers to be informed of the adaptive sports opportunities near their home.  

In closing, I would like to thank the Committee and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs for your support of adaptive programming for physically disabled veterans. I grew up in a household with a blind father. While he was not a veteran, I saw first hand how opportunities like these can change lives. What you are doing matters a great deal and will have a positive and lasting impact for the program participants, their family and friends, and their communities.

Appendix A

OPERATION ADAPTIVE SPORTS IOWA

Operation ASI is designed to perform the following deliverables:

  1. Develop a new program, Operation ASI, with the goal of increasing adaptive sports and recreation opportunities for Iowa’s disabled veterans by the elements listed below:

  1. Organize, promote and administer a variety of adaptive sport and recreational programs targeting at least thirty (30) disabled veterans by introducing them to a variety of activities such as basic fitness and access to instruction and equipment in cycling, bowling, golf and target shooting with consistent weekly and/or bi-weekly training;

  1. Increase the existing adaptive sport and recreation opportunities in Iowa to include cycling, boccia, golf, and target shooting for disabled veterans with consistent weekly and/or bi-weekly training opportunities;

  1. In recent years, Central Iowa has witnessed development of many recreational trails. It’s important that many of these programs offer the opportunity for training and participation away from VA and military campuses. There are many facilities and locations the above mentioned activities can take place that can effectively serve the needs of the program participants.

  1.  Assist a minimum of five (5) disabled veterans in participating in and completing a competitive level and/or recreational event in any of the above motioned activities.

  1.  By working closely with the Iowa Games (another program of the Iowa Sports Foundation), competitive opportunities will be available and accessible to any and all disabled veterans that have a desire to participate.

  2. RAGBRAI, an annual cycling event in Iowa with roughly 25,000 participants will be a target event for our program participants. Progress has already been made with integrating an adaptive specific team and disabled veterans within this program will have the opportunity to participate with this team.

  1. Obtain the appropriate and necessary equipment for the above mentioned activities that matches the needs of the targeted disabled veterans.

  1. Increase the number of disabled veterans participating in a Paralympic Sport at any level to ten (10) or more

  1. Organize and administer outreach efforts for recruitment, educational and public awareness purposes:

  1. Educate at least sixty (60) disabled veterans about adaptive sports opportunities available to them locally and throughout Iowa.

  1. Collaborate with the following organizations to identify community organizations and contacts that can assist in the promotion of this program to reach disabled veterans.

  1. Veterans Affairs Central Iowa Health Care System

  2. Iowa National Guard

  3. Paralyzed Veterans of America—Iowa Chapter

  1. Organize and administer a “kickoff” event for disabled veterans and veterans organizations no later then July 31, 2011

  1. US Olympic Committee, Paralympic Division will be recognized appropriately as a supporter of this program in local media and publicity.


[1] Erickson, W., Lee, C., von Schrader, S. (2010, March 17). Disability Statistics from the 2008 American Community Survey (ACS). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Disability Demographics and Statistics (StatsRRTC). Retrieved Sep 30, 2011 from www.disabilitystatistics.org