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North Hills Monthly

Three Rivers Adaptive Sports Helps Those with Disabilities Overcome Obstacles

Jan 29, 2016 05:22PM ● By Clare Heekin Lynch
For the last 27 years, Three Rivers Adaptive Sports of Pennsylvania (TRAS PA) has helped thousands of people with disabilities learn how to ski and snowboard in the winter, golf, water-ski, kayak and canoe in the summer, and bowl year-round. “The group formed in 1989 with the mission of promoting quality of life and education for people with disabilities by providing quality, year-round sports and recreation opportunities,” explained board member Mark Kulzer.

One of the main objectives of the group is to provide therapeutic recreation, using fun and exercise, to help people with disabilities conquer personal obstacles. As a recreational therapist who works daily with newly injured patients, Kulzer’s passion for the organization is obvious. “When I first start working with new patients, I strive to help them adapt and get back to life as best as they can. Often, these people are going through a lot of physical and emotional adjustments with their new disabilities, and being involved in recreational sports, and learning their limitations, are just not at the forefront of their goals,” he said. “So when I volunteer with TRAS, I get to interact with people who are ready to take that next step in enjoying quality-of-life experiences.”

The activities are for enjoyment, but they are also instrumental in helping members to overcome personal barriers. “It’s not only a physical challenge, but it’s a mental challenge as well,” said Kulzer.

TRAS PA is a chapter of a larger organization, Disabled Sports USA,  a nationwide network of organizations that provide adaptive sports and recreational programs for people with a wide range of physical and intellectual disabilities. Unlike larger chapters, TRAS PA is strictly volunteer-run. “We have an incredible group of dedicated volunteers and members who really put all of their efforts into conducting the program so that people with disabilities can live their lives as independently as possible,” Kulzer said. Because of this volunteer foundation, the organization relies heavily on word-of-mouth to keep its programs in place.

People interested in participating in its sports events are encouraged to join as members for a nominal $20 annual fee, which allows them to take advantage of lower event fees than nonmembers. The group also relies on grants and other funding in order to keep the programs going. “With funding, we’ve been able to get some of the latest equipment so that whether they’re standing up or sitting down, we can get anybody out on, say, the ski slope,” Kulzer explained.

Learning how to tackle new challenges also helps to boost confidence in participants which, in turn, promotes education, employment and social development. “When sports and recreation are an integral part of the adjustment process, people with disabilities can gain self-confidence, independence and a sense of accomplishment that can be applied to other areas of their lives,” said Kulzer.

And the group believes in working together with others to make these accomplishments a success. “We work in collaboration with other similar organizations around the region in supporting their sports programs, which may vary from ours, because we all have the same goal—to get people with disabilities out doing things,” said Kulzer. And, through a grant from the United Way of Allegheny County’s Tocqueville Society, TRAS offers a Paired for Progress Scholarship Program which allows friends or family members of a person with a disability the opportunity to participate in a TRAS activity along with them, free of charge. “After all, family and friends are an essential part of everyone’s life,” said Kulzer.  

For more information on joining, volunteering or donating, visit