By: Liz Landry
Ten years ago, Mike Smithson suffered a spinal stroke and became an incomplete paraplegic, only able to walk and stand up with the help of assistive equipment. As a Navy veteran, retired air-traffic controller, husband and father, the following years were very difficult and involved re-learning his entire way of life.
In 2016, Mike attended an event hosted by the VA hospital and a not-for-profit organization called Move Along, Inc. There, he saw other disabled veterans playing sports, being active and genuinely enjoying life. He was so inspired by the participants that he became involved with Move Along and learned how to play adaptive sports himself, re-capturing his passion for life with every new activity he experienced.
Fast-forward to 2022 and Mike is now the newly elected board president of Move Along, working to achieve the organization’s goal of helping many more physically limited people re-gain enjoyment of life through adaptive sports and human connections.
In operation for over 20 years, Move Along has its roots in the still-active wheelchair basketball and sled hockey teams, the Flyers, which began in 1979. Move Along’s mission is to provide and promote inclusive adaptive sport and recreation opportunities for people with disabilities and allies.
The organization aims to make a difference for disabled people of every age and from every walk of life: veterans, stroke victims, amputees, the elderly, those born with cerebral palsy, spina bifida and other congenital disorders, and the list goes on.
The main goal of Move Along is to make adaptive equipment as available as possible to everyone in the community. Move Along owns many types of devices that are adapted for use by people with varying levels of physical abilities. Recumbent chairs, hand cycles, tennis chairs, wheelchairs for wheelchair basketball, sleds for sled hockey, kayaks equipped with pontoons, and many more, are all available for borrow or rent. Additionally, the organization sponsors and coordinates several events and sporting activities, such as wheelchair basketball and sled hockey tournaments, as well as stroke victim support group meetings, to name a few.
As the organization evolves, another of Mike’s initiatives for Move Along is to build partnerships with other like-minded organizations and increase educational awareness about interacting with disabled people. “We want able-bodied people to engage with us and not ignore us,” Mike explained.
People with physical disabilities often feel marginalized and disconnected from the wider communities they live in. When these individuals get the chance to actively participate in sports and other recreational events, their spirits are uplifted and their excitement is unmistakable.
“We want to reach people to tell them they should not be alone, they should not be looking out the window at their friends riding their bikes – they should be able to get out and play. I know how life-changing it can be,” Mike said.
As a 501(c)(3) non-profit, Move Along accepts donations to help reach its goals and continue to provide adaptive equipment for the community. All are welcome to get involved and help live out the organization’s mission.
To learn more about Move Along and how you can help or lead others to utilize their services you may visit their website at www.MoveAlongInc.org or call 315-350-1726.