Breaking Ground 112 - STRIVE4You Inclusive Sports and FitnessBy Ricky Jones, STRIVE4You co-founder and 2011 Partners in Policymaking® graduate
Recreation and sports can be so empowering, bringing friends, family, and even couples together! Studies by the United States Association of Blind Athletes in 2014 showed that, compared to the general American population, less than 19% of blind and visually impaired K-12 students actively participate in physical education or after-school recreation activities. After high school, that number of blind and visually impaired adults getting regular moderate exercise drops to 14%. Only 9% of seniors and veterans are getting regular exercise.
My wife Christy and I were some of these very people, living sedentary, unhealthy, and truly unfulfilling lives. We knew we wanted more for ourselves, and most importantly, more for our children. Christy and I both grew up visually impaired, dealing with society’s negative stereotypes and desperately struggling against our own internal and external barriers. We knew there had to be more, and boy, were we right!
In our separate journey to find resources for ourselves and our children, we found each other. With the help of my younger brother, Dwaine, and others, I had re-started the TN Association of Blind Athletes (TNABA) in 2009. In 2011, Christy was looking for resources for her and for her sighted daughter, who was just starting kindergarten. When she called vocational rehabilitation services, the kind lady on the other end of the phone suggested Christy should come out to a TNABA picnic.
That is where she and I first met and began getting to know each other and our passion for life. Less than a year later, we realized there was so much more between us as we fell in love. Ten plus years later, we are married with three kids and have dedicated our lives to empowering others to live life to its fullest!
In late 2019, the TNABA and another nonprofit we participated in were both dissolving. But we wanted to continue the mission to provide confidence, resources, and, most importantly, opportunities for people with disabilities to get out of the house and live their lives on their terms.
So, we decided to merge our passion for adaptive sports and recreation and self-defense into one national organization, called STRIVE4YOU.
STRIVE stands for “Strength, Training, & Recreation Inspiring Vitality & Empowerment.” Our mission is to provide the education, resources, and opportunities for people with disabilities to live life to its fullest in a more inclusive society for all!
We use a peer-to-peer approach to mentor others to succeed through several programs.
- Our ARISE (Adaptive Recreation Inspiring Success & Empowerment) program provides recreational and sports opportunities.
- Our SEED (Safety Education Empowering Defense) program is the only one of its kind – created by the blind for the blind, taking a holistic approach to safety.
- Our BE REAL program we hope to launch soon. It will provide self-advocacy, communication, and disability awareness to help form positive interactions between everyone within the community.
Each program takes a two-prong approach:
- First, providing services for a person with a disability.
- Second, providing meaningful education and resources for those within the communities we live, work, and play in.
Our ARISE Program provides adaptive sports days to give folks the opportunity to try different adaptive sports to see what they like. We host three nationwide tournaments right here in Nashville. We host our annual “STRIVER Day,” an interactive conference which promotes health, wellness, safety, and self-defense, along with other disability-related topics. We also teach workshops and webinars for professionals on how to make their mainstream programming more inclusive for everyone!
Our SEED Program offers safety education and self-defense workshops throughout the country. These trainings teach students how to handle potentially dangerous contact with others. Students learn to assess the situation and respond appropriately until the situation is deescalated. The goal is to allow everyone to go home safely.
We are still forming the curriculum and program offerings for the BE REAL Program. We welcome all our fellow Partners in Policymaking® graduates to join the team and help us develop it!
If you want to get involved, you can check us out at https://strive4you.org. We have lots of ways you can join us.
Whether you are a person who has had a disability since birth or someone who has newly joined our community, we want you to know there is no reason that your challenges must dictate who you are. We are here to STRIVE for a better future for you, but first you must STRIVE for You!
Ricky Jones is a 2011 graduate of Partners in Policymaking, the Council’s free leadership and advocacy training program. His wife Christy is a 2018 Partners graduate. Their family lives in Madison, TN.