SAN ANTONIO –“Get off the sideline and onto the goal line!”
That’s the simple-yet-powerful message of STRAPS (South Texas Regional Adaptive and Paralympic Sports), now into its third year at San Antonio’s Morgan’s Wonderland, the world’s first theme park designed for those with disabilities and special needs in mind and built to be enjoyed by everyone.
“STRAPS emphasizes movement,” said Wendy Gumbert, STRAPS director. “It encourages athletes with physical disabilities to get moving, competing and enjoying improved fitness. They also become role models and mentors to others with physical disabilities because they promote character through active participation in sports.”
STRAPS began in 2012 with three sports – Paralympic soccer, wheelchair soccer and powerchair soccer – and 50 athletes. Since then, five other sports – goalball that’s similar to soccer (for visually impaired athletes), wheelchair basketball for adults, junior-varsity basketball (for those age 24 and younger), wheelchair football and wheelchair softball – have been added.
STRAPS’ year-round sports opportunities now attract more than 150 participants including Wounded Warriors, military veterans, young adults, men and women, Gumbert said. They practice and compete at either the Morgan’s Wonderland Event Center or the next-door STAR (South Texas Area Regional) Soccer Complex, with 13 first-class playing fields built to FIFA specifications.
“STRAPS athletes train and compete only four miles away from the San Antonio Military Medical Center and the Center for the Intrepid at Fort Sam Houston, a major Army installation,” Gumbert said. “These entities are heavily involved in the rehabilitation of service members returning from combat. Since we place particular emphasis on offering sports that appeal to Wounded Warriors and veterans, those men and women make up about 40 percent of STRAPS athletes.”
There’s no charge for STRAPS, thanks to the generosity of presenting sponsor Boeing, a world leader in the aerospace industry, and the support of players and coaches from the San Antonio Scorpions professional soccer team. STRAPS also enjoys strong backing from the U. S. Olympic Committee, U. S. Paralympics and the Audie Murphy Veterans Administration Medical Center in San Antonio.
In April 2013, U. S. Paralympics recognized STRAPS as a sanctioned U. S. Paralympic Sports Club, Gumbert noted, and the program’s long-term vision is to be recognized and respected as a national center of excellence for adaptive and Paralympic sports.
STRAPS, unique Morgan’s Wonderland theme park, STAR Soccer, the Scorpions pro soccer club, the Scorpions’ new, multi-purpose stadium (Toyota Field), and Monarch Academy school for students with special needs – as well as other initiatives to help the special-needs community – were created through the vision and leadership of The Gordon Hartman Family Foundation.