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Gillette Helps Athletes with Paralympic Dreams

Gillette Children's partners with Padraig's Place to host an Adaptive Ski Day. A young boy and volunteers go down the ski hill.

Gillette Children's partners with Padraig's Place to host an Adaptive Ski Day. 

About 30 Minnesota athletes are getting ready to compete in the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing. Afton, Minnesota cross country skier, Jessie Diggins, is back to compete after winning a gold medal at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. 

Watching the Olympic athletes try their best and achieve their goals is inspirational and prompts some of us to dream of our own gold medal moment. These moments of victory are especially inspirational for children and can be a spark to try a new physical activity.

February is National Therapeutic Recreation Month. Tammy Larson supervises the therapeutic recreation specialists at Gillette Children's. She's an avid Olympic watcher and says the games are an opportunity for kids and parents to think about trying a new sport. Gillette offers lots of support and resources for kids who are patients.

Participating in sports helps kids build strength and friendships.

Being part of a team and making friends

“We just need a Gillette provider to send us an order in a child’s medical record stating that the child is interested and approved to explore a new sport,” Larson says. “Then we’ll take it from there. It’s a free service and we can talk to families in person or on the phone to steer them in the right direction.”

Larson is proud that her department can go beyond just providing a list of phone numbers. “We’re trained to ask questions to find out more about the child’s desire to participate in a sport.” According to Larson, the physical challenges can help with strength and flexibility but the social part of playing a sport is also important.

“It’s great to see kids being part of a team and making friends. We can steer families to places where they can meet other kids in similar physical condition and they can form friendships.”

Gillette often hosts an adaptive bike expo so families can test equipment. A young girl enjoys riding a bike.

Gillette often hosts an adaptive bike expo so families can test equipment. (photo taken before COVID)

Living your best life

Larson and the therapeutic rec team at Gillette let families know about “try it before you buy it” opportunities. “Sometimes it’s difficult for a family to try to invest in adaptive sports equipment. It can be expensive and you want to make sure your child is really interested in participating in the sport before you make a financial commitment,” Larson suggests.

“Having the opportunity to participate in athletics is important. I see kids in our waiting rooms at Gillette and I can pick out which kids are athletes.  They have more confidence and just hold themselves differently,” Larson says. The benefits of consistent physical activity also include better weight control, improved heart health and muscle strength.

Larson reminds us that not every child will wind up being an Olympic or Paralympic athlete but having fun and challenging yourself physically is helpful for all kids to live their best life.