Building the Bridge: Our Story
There is something that runs deep in the adaptive sport and recreation community. It’s hard to put a word on it. Passion? Purpose? Those words come close but don’t quite cover it. If you’ve ever been to an adaptive or inclusive event, as either an athlete or supporter, you may have felt a glimpse of it. But if you’ve been sucked into the community, you know exactly what it feels like. This feeling is at the core of our story at The Bridge.
The first inklings of The Bridge existed in a meeting in the fall of 2018 when Danny Meyer, Renee Loftspring, Ian Lynch and MeMe Earnest got together at Madtree to talk about 1) how we could better connect people to opportunities and 2) what didn’t exist that our community needed. Ian made a website that listed all the opportunities in the area and had a sort feature, so visitors could select their type of disability and a list of opportunities would populate. We all began talking a little bit more, dreaming a little bit more, and beginning to do a little bit more within our own niches.
But it wasn’t until the COVID-19 started lurking in the United States that the current group of “Bridgies” came together. There were a few small side meetings between people discussing the barriers to sport and physical activity for people with disabilities, what existed, and what could be done. Then a larger meeting with athletes and members of some of the bigger adaptive programs occurred. Good input was given, and it ultimately helped the core group of founders verbalize our pillars over the next couple of months. In late fall 2020, Victoria Heasley led us as we completed our paperwork to become a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. This process was our turning point.
Our dreams were big; they still are. We wanted to do everything; we still do. But we knew to be a successful organization, we had to start with attainable goals and actually make moves to attain them. Those moves are what we’ve been working on since we were awarded our nonprofit status in April 2021.This is easier said than done, as all of us founders have full time jobs, families, and other commitments. Babies have been born, weddings have been planned, and career promotions have been earned in the past year and a half as we’ve started this nonprofit. It has been truly special for each of us to develop as leaders, change agents, and friends during this process. And, more than anything, we look forward to growing and forming such relationships as we make disability visible and help build a more inclusive and accessible Cincinnati area.
Yes, we love sports and recreation. We love to play and compete. We love the benefits of sport, too. But it’s something more than that which drives us to achieve our vision of a community where people regardless of ability can fully participate in competitive and leisure activities.
So what is that something that runs deep in the adaptive sport community? Other than the thrill and joy of playing, we think it’s the kinship. The brother and sisterhood, despite the differences that appear on the surface. For athletes, it’s the relationships with others who have similar life experiences while working towards a common goal. For all of us, it’s knowing that a society where people with disabilities don’t have the opportunity to play, to be active, and to compete, is not a just society. It’s knowing that when you truly care about the wellbeing of another and their success, when you care about their health, their social and personal development, about their potential - you can no longer allow society to make them sit on the sidelines. We have to Bridge the gap.
There’s a quote by Murri activist Lilla Watson that goes “If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. If you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” We don’t just want to help people with disabilities. We don’t want to just cheer them on as they work hard, play a sport, and do something they enjoy.
We want to create change within our society. We believe that change can start with sport. And it starts by making change possible for each of us.
It doesn’t have to be easy. It won’t be easy.
But it is possible.
And we are going to have a whole lot of fun doing it.
Thank you for your support of our mission. We are so happy to have you as a part of our story.