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Charina Sumner, in purple, reacts after making a play in a wheelchair rugby match during Adapted Sports Day held at ECU Nov. 22. Kevin Griffin is seen at right. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

Patriots, Paralympians Highlight Adapted Sports Day

East Carolina University’s 12th Annual Adapted Sports Day, held Nov. 22 at the Student Recreation Center, honored ECU’s ties to both the Wounded Warrior program and to the 2008 Olympics/Paralympics with the theme, “Stars, Stripes, and Reaching New Heights.”

The 2008 Adapted Sports Day was “a celebration of our patriotism, the wounded warriors that have fought for our country, and the variety of possibilities that are available through adapted sport for everyone to stay active regardless of obstacles that may be present,” said David Gaskins, associate director for programs at ECU Campus Recreation and Wellness.

Open to individuals with and without disabilities, the event featured prominent speakers and introduces a variety of adapted sports activities. This year’s keynote speaker was Ed Salau, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who lost his leg in combat in Iraq. During a lunchtime seminar, Paralympians Elexis Gillette and Heather Erickson shared their experiences at the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing.

Philip Allen, far left, fences with Kyler Zary during an adapted sports fencing demonstration. Allen is a member of the ECU fencing club and Zary is on the New Bern fencing team.

An Eastern North Carolina native, Salau is a decorated veteran of both the Marines and the Army National Guard. He is a certified adapted ski instructor, has climbed Mount Ranier, and has hand cycled and run in marathons and other distance competitions. Salau works as the Veterans Service Organizations and Charitable Organizations Liaison at Camp Lejeune’s Wounded Warrior Battalion. Salau’s honors include the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Meritorious Service, Army Commendation, and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with two gold starts. His story has been featured on television networks including HBO and Nickelodeon.

Salau earned a bachelor’s degree from Southern Illinois University and a master’s from Boston University.

Adapted Sports Day offers demonstration and participation in a variety of adapted sports. Events include rock wall climbing, wheelchair volleyball, slalom course, bowling and billiards, tai chi, hand cycling, racquetball, wheelchair rugby, seated aerobics, wheelchair fencing, weight training, wheelchair tennis, shuffleboard, quad rugby, power/wheelchair hockey, innertube water polo and boccé.

While providing exposure to healthy and fun recreational activities for individuals with disabilities, the annual event also provides unique opportunities for ECU students in related disciplines – such as recreation therapy, physical therapy and occupational therapy – to gain valuable practical experience.

It is sponsored by ECU’s Department of Campus Recreation and Wellness Adapted Recreation program, the College of Health and Human Performance, Pitt County Community Schools & Recreation, and the local community’s Support Team for Active Recreation.

The program was first proposed in 1996, when it was titled “Quad/Para Sports Day.” In subsequent years, the program embraced a greater range of disabilities and in 1999, the program attracted its first nationally known keynote speaker, climber Mark Wellman.

Previous speakers have included wheelchair tennis player Harriet Enzor, Paralympic swimmer and runner Rudy Garcia-Tolson, wheelchair marathoner and basketball player Jean Driscoll, Paralympic swimmer Trischa Zorn, power hockey player Shawn Hessee, sprinter Brian Frasure, hand cyclist William Brady, golfer Bob Ronne, swimmer and road racer Ron Curll, the Charlotte Crash Quad Rugby team and the Port City Wheelers wheelchair basketball team.

For additional information about Adapted Sports Day, contact David Gaskins at 328-6387.

This page originally appeared in the Dec. 12, 2008 issue of Pieces of Eight. Complete issue is archived at