Meet CC, a typical 17-year-old teenager. She loves to hang with her friends and play sports. What’s not typical about her life – a wheelchair. And she isn’t letting it slow her down.
Meet DASA (Disabled Athletes Sports Association), a not-for-profit adaptive sports and fitness organization, focused on empowering local disabled athletes and getting them back in the game. From age 24 months – 98 years old, their mission is to get individuals with physical disabilities moving and identifying with their inner athlete.
In June 2016 CC feared her athletic lifestyle had come to an end. The victim of an accidental shooting, CC was paralyzed and faced with life in a wheelchair.
Through rehabilitation and therapy at Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital, CC learned of DASA and met founder Kelly Behlmann. CC recalls that meeting and her life changing for the better. “I was introduced to Kelly and the next thing I know is that she’s putting me in a basketball chair and said, ‘Get out there!” CC shares. “I loved it. I was also introduced to wheelchair track and got to spend a few days at summer camp. But basketball was always my favorite sport before my injury.”
After being discharged from Ranken Jordan, CC acclimated to life using a wheelchair. Attending Gateway Middle School and Soldan International High School, CC tried to fit into her community with her “new normal” way of life. Accessibility and transportation can be and was a major burden and made it difficult to stay in contact with friends and relate to others at school. COVID-19’s “at home learning” was just another challenge she was not able to overcome. She quit school her junior year. Through all of this CC did not have the ability to participate with DASA due to circumstances beyond her control, and her challenging home-life living in a wheelchair.
In 2021, CC took the initiative and began studying for the GED. She contacted DASA and requested to participate in overnight camp. DASA Camp WeCanDu offered a desperately needed outlet. She attended a one-week camp in Babler State Park – and it was just what she needed.
A week outdoors brought back her energy and motivated her to continue with her aspirations to graduate. In addition, she started participating again in DASA weekend Try Para Sport events. Since participating in camp, CC is more self-reliant, and motivated to participate in more programming. She has participated in adaptive water skiing, tree climbing, track and field, cycling, wheelchair basketball, and most importantly, making new friends with like abilities.
CC shares, “I loved sports before my injury. Adaptive sports make me feel that I can still do sports, even after my injury. Adaptive sports make me feel everything - it’s exciting and uplifting.”
Thanks to DASA and adaptive sports, I am still an athlete. – CC
Behlmann, a physical therapist, is impressed by CC’s drive. “CC is an inspiration. She, along with more than 300 metro-area children are positively impacted by our work each year,” Behlmann shared. “As a trained physical therapist for over 30 years, I saw the fire missing in patients. I saw the desire to do more. Therapy is a wonderful treatment, but for some patients, or athletes, they come to a point where they need to return to their sport(s). They need the competition and connection with friends.”
The difference between DASA and other local non-profits is that DASA focuses on individuals faced with traumatic injuries or congenital physical disabilities. The purpose of DASA is to help individuals resume previous life experiences and offer opportunities to live out their best lives, using their abilities. DASA does not focus on what an individual cannot do, but what they can do, and teaches them to do it to the best of their ability.
DASA offers year-round sport and fitness opportunities in swimming, basketball, tennis, golf, archery, powerlifting, rugby, sled hockey, boccia ball, power wheelchair soccer, and more. While activities are primarily offered in the St. Louis County areas, DASA has begun hosting “Try Para Sport” events in St Louis City and the surrounding communities.
CC encourages other disabled athletes to join DASA. “What’s the worst that can happen?” CC jokes. “You’ll fall out of your chair – and you’ll get right back in and get back to what you were doing.”
To learn more about DASA, or refer a friend or loved one, contact DASA at 636-477-0716 or Meghanm@dasasports.org.