SRAs: Special recreation for special people

Published: Monday, June 10, 2013 10:57 a.m. CDT
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Bruce Flowers

NEDSRA, WDSRA, SEASPAR, NWSRA, WSSRA, FVSRA.

What do these alphabet soup characters all have in common? These are a few of the 28 special recreation associations (SRAs) located in Illinois that offer recreation services to people with physical and intellectual disabilities. Bunched together by geographical locations and in cooperation with local park districts and villages, SRAs utilize existing park district gyms, parks, pools and other facilities to offer inclusive sports and rec programs.

My organization, NEDSRA, stands for Northeast DuPage Special Recreation Association – surely a mouthful and a marketer's nightmare.

The first SRA was established in Wilmette around 1968 and is currently called the Northern Suburban SRA (NSSRA). Other SRAs were formed and by 1975, the SRA directors started meeting and formed SRANI, Special Recreation Association Network of Illinois (specialrecreation.org). Their meetings consisted of sharing funding and program ideas with each other.

The guiding SRA philosophy is that if an individual with a disability participates in recreation, he/she will develop a more positive self-image that will then foster a better quality of life.

Coaching basketball at NEDSRA, I have experienced first-hand the positive qualities of sports and their effect on these adults. Playing basketball is great exercise but more importantly, the socializing that goes on during these games results in lifelong friendships for some. Basically the SRAs offer a chance to have fun, get out of the house and make new friends.

I think we all understand the positive effects of exercise and how it makes us feel better, not only physically but also mentally. Strong bodies make for strong minds. Now imagine sitting in a wheelchair all day, stuck in a house with no transportation. Not too appealing. SRA vans are available for home pickup for adults with physical and visual disabilities, giving them a way to participate in activities such as bowling, basketball, art, swimming, visiting animal shelters, trips to the zoo and out-of-state travel, just to name a few of the 600 programs available at NEDSRA.

So if you know someone in your neighborhood with a disability, ask if they participate in a NEDSRA program. And if they don't, send them to our website, nedsra.org, or have them call us at 630-620-4500 to learn more about our programs.

The NEDSRA service area includes the park districts of Addison, Lombard, Bensenville, Itasca, Medinah, Oakbrook Terrace, Wood Dale, Butterfield and the villages of Schiller Park, Glendale Heights and Villa Park.

Bruce Flowers is marketing manager with NEDSRA

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