Columbus Rec and Parks offers adaptive sports, exercise for disabled

Max Damron, 24, swings a seat back into place after using a strength training machine at Columbus Parks and Recreation's Franklin Park Adventure Center, home to a fitness facility which meet the needs of individuals with disabilities. The equipment that Damron uses easily adapts to accommodate an individual who uses a wheelchair.

Jeremy Finton knows how difficult it can be to adjust to a disability.

He remembers the early days, fumbling around after breaking his neck in 2001, realizing he would never be able to walk again — let alone play sports or exercise the same way he once could — after being limited to the mobility of a wheelchair.

“I want to make it better for the next person behind me,” the 42-year-old said, explaining that 20 years ago, it was much more difficult to find fitness opportunities for the disabled.

As a full-time staffer at the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department’s Franklin Park Adventure Center, Finton has been doing his best to adhere to that goal.

Jeremy Finton sets up for boccia inside Columbus Parks and Recreation's Franklin Park Adventure Center. Finton runs several adaptive sports leagues.

He runs several adaptive sports leagues for those with disabilities at Franklin Park, which offers therapeutic recreation programs modified to fit the needs of individuals with disabilities. Before being hired on full time in 2015, he was a volunteer coach at the center starting in 2013.

Located behind the Franklin Park Conservatory off West Broad Street, the Franklin Park Adventure Center offers a score of inclusive sports leagues — everything from blind soccer to wheelchair tennis to adaptive marksmanship — the center’s interim director, Preston Shepard, said. On the second floor, anyone is welcome to use dozens of adaptive exercise machines.

“We have at least 120 people in here a week,” Shepard said. “And we don’t charge for the fitness center. We just ask that people get a waiver signed by their doctor.”

Working out independently

Preston Shepard is the current director of Columbus Parks and Recreation's therapeutic recreation program, housed in the Franklin Park Adventure Center.

Max Damron has been going to Franklin Park since he was 8 years old.

The 24-year-old, who uses a wheelchair, exercises at the center most days, starting his workouts with a 2.5-mile spin around the gym on the center’s first floor, usually making around 20-30 laps over the course of an hour. Then he heads upstairs to use a modified version of the lats pull-down machine, which exercises muscles in the back and upper body.


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