By TERRY BROWN, Special to the Times UnionOctober 19, 2009
A Capital Region nonprofit organization that offers sports therapies to youths and adults with physical disabilities has earned national recognition for one of its Wounded Warriors programs.
STRIDE Adaptive Sports of Rensselaer was honored for its Camp STRIDE Wounded Warrior Fall Family Retreat held each year at Moreau Lake State Park.
Katie Moshier Suhr, Wounded Warrior events coordinator for STRIDE Adaptive Sports, and Mary Ellen Whitney, STRIDE's chief executive officer, received a Newman's Own Award during a ceremony last month in the Pentagon Hall of Heroes in Washington.
STRIDE was one of 11 selected for national awards and grants.
Suhr and Whitney received a $5,000 Newman's Own grant.
USA Together, a Web site the links wounded service members with donors, was the top winner and received a $75,000 grant.
Tom Indoe, CEO of Newman's Own; Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff; Tammy Fisher of Fisher House Foundation; and Robert Colensco, marketing director of Military Media Group, presented the awards.
Newman's Own, the Fisher House Foundation and the Military Media Group co-sponsor the awards program. Newman's Own, founded by the later actor Paul Newman, makes sauces, salsas, dressings and other foods.
Last month, five soldiers and Marines wounded or injured in the Iraq or Afghanistan wars mentored young athletes with similar disabilities during STRIDE's weekend of kayaking, whitewater rafting, hiking, campfire cooking and tent camping in the Adirondacks.
"It was great," Army veteran Erik Tirado of Amsterdam, said, "Meeting Evan (Levesque) and spending time with him was awe-inspiring and the rafting trip got my adrenaline pumping."
"Another veteran shared that he was nervous to be camping in the woods because the event was on the anniversary of his injury in Iraq," Whitney said. "But he found the experience to be one of the most healing things he could have done for himself, and he learned that his life situation is humbled when compared to a child who has lived with a challenge since birth."
This is STRIDE's second year hosting the innovative camping experience where military service members with disabilities camp together with youth athletes from STRIDE Adaptive Sports organization.
STRIDE also is supported by Wounded Warrior Disabled Sports Project of Washington, D.C.
STRIDE has provided service programs for Wounded Warriors for five years, and partners with many veterans groups including the Veterans of Lansingburgh, which provided a steak and chicken dinner at the campsite for the group of nearly 30 people.
STRIDE's next Wounded Warrior event is the 5th Annual Wounded Warrior Snowsports Weekend slated for March 5-7, at Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort. Contact STRIDE at 598-1279 for more information or to sign up.
STRIDE Adaptive Sports is a volunteer nonprofit organization providing adaptive sport and recreation lessons annually to children and individuals with special needs, according to Suhr. STRIDE has more than 200 skilled volunteer sport instructors, serving more than 1,000 families and offers free programs in 16 different sports.