Addressing a need in our community
Access Recreation Boston was started in 2008 when a group of adaptive and therapeutic recreation providers kept bumping into each other at local events, realizing that they had much to share without quite the right forum. With a brief mention of the then “Greater Boston Access to Recreation” in a grant application, the Shapiro Foundation’s interest was piqued. Acting as a connecting force and providing meeting space and the occasional lunch, the Shapiro Foundation helped to give what is now Access Recreation Boston a solid place from which to start.
In the fall of 2011, Greater Boston Access to Recreation (GBAR, now Access Recreation Boston) hosted its first event, a “speed networking” forum attended by 24 local professionals. It was one of the first events of its kind, bringing together adaptive recreation professionals from across the region in various sports, disciplines and disabilities served. The overarching call-to-action from this meeting was the demand to organize more formally and create a ‘clearing-house’ of recreational opportunities in the Greater Boston area.
Since then, Access Rec has hosted ten conferences attended by as many as 90 professionals, with keynotes including Paralympic athletes Cheri Blauwet, Maureen McKinnon, Ernst Van Dyk, Joe Walsh, and Eli Wolff, and sessions ranging from grant writing and risk management to adaptive equipment and inclusion strategies.
Working closely with local professionals as well as the Boston Disability Task Force, we hear again and again the need for a single point of reference for individuals with disabilities to discover the multitude of local recreation opportunities already available. We hear how valuable it is to connect as a field, to know the people behind other programs in order to make the best referrals, and how programs want to improve the quality of their services in addition to expanding outreach.
During the fall of 2012, the Access Rec steering committee received a start-up grant from the Shapiro Foundation which enabled us to formalize our organization and set our course for the next several years. While we took a break from conferences during this time, we were hard at work building our website and making connections in the community. 2013 funding from the J.E. & Z.B. Butler Foundation helped us to build this website.