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Thread: Access to Exercise...A Novel Approach

  1. #1

    Access to Exercise...A Novel Approach

    I hope I am not being too premature here, but after reading a post "Where Can I Walk" I decided to share this with the CareCure Community.

    I started a not-for-profit (501c3) organization a few years ago with a vision of providing adaptive sporting opportunities and resources for people with physical disabilities (namely SCI). As the ball rolled it gained momentum much more quickly than I could have ever anticipated. Today, Michigan Sports Unlimited, Inc. is providing not only access to recreation & resources, but also access to advanced barrier-free exercise. Read on...

    Our 4300-sqft facility currently has several accessible fitness machines designed for wheelchair users: SCI Fit, Cybex FT360, Equalizer, Uppertone. We also have traditional free weights and some "para" friendly pieces of equipment (require transfer). Within the next 12 months I plan to purchase a full overhead treadmill system AND an FES bike (...elliptical trainer soon). All of this equipment, including numerous sports chairs, handcycles, etc. has been funded through grant writing and fund raising efforts (locally). The new equipment will likely be funded the same way.

    The novelty of Michigan Sports Unlimited? We're non-profit...anyone with a physical disability can utilize our services without worrying if they afford it. The purpose in starting the organization was to provide opportunities that were otherwise non-existent. Trying sports equipment without worries of cost or bad fits, attending free sports clinics to learn how and where to play/participate in different activities, working out on accessible equipment made for you, discovering sports/recreation resources through a single phone call or a visit to our gym...the list goes on. that we (people with SCI's) can have access without our insurance saying "No" and without worry of going broke paying for expensive equipment, gyms, or therapy.

    Right now the use of our facility is completely free. The organization survives on charitable contributions of those that can afford to contribute and on the support of our community. We hope to create a membership of some sort that enables those that can contribute monetarily to do so...those that can't afford any monetary contribution help in other ways (fund raising, volunteering, lending their skills etc.). Our goal is to get people that there is much to be done in the SCI realm...leave no excuses.

    We are a one-stop-health-shop. Grab a handcycle and go for a spin, hop in a basketball chair and shoot some hoops, work-out, play ping-pong/billiards, try tennis, floor hockey, rugby, socialize, SCI-cycle in front of our 62" big screen, borrow a piece of sporting equipment for the weekend...

    Check out the link below to see some of what we do. The fitness page has old (before facility completion) pictures of some of the equipment. Our new website will be unveiled within the next 2 months or so...with updated pictures that I can post sooner if there is interest.

    I better stop here...I could go on for hours. I suspect there will be a few questions from all of you...I'll answer them as they come. My hope in posting this is that you all realize the opportunities at your fingertips. With persistence, dedication, and determination, every state could have a "Your State" Sports Unlimited.

  2. #2
    Thanks Sirideain.

  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2001
    Boca Raton, Florida, USA
    I find it preferrable to transfer to a weight bench or nautlis machine...or simply get down on a mat.

    I spent as little time in the wheelchair as I possibly can...I hate it

    Eric Texley

  4. #4
    Hi Brian
    I was wondering if you have any suggestions on trying to develop a similar program in my state - were almost neighbors- Minnesota.
    My husband is a c4 quad and we have battled trying to develop a rec program for him to use. The idea of a 'health club' for people with disabilities that had a low to no cost for prospective clients actually has crossed my mind quite a few times prior to even being aware that there was programs such as yours actually out there- the majority that I have come across either are limited to insurance only or are straight for profit organizations.
    I guess I am in the research phase of the feasibility of this type of program here and any info, ideas, suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
    You can email me at when you have a moment or two...
    Thanks! Michelle

  5. #5
    Eric -

    I also do most of my weight training and exercising by transferring. We have a Nautilus weight bench and Smith Machine, along with a few additional adjustable benches for people that prefer transferring.

  6. #6
    Hi Michelle -

    Here is the Cliff's version...I'll happily email you with more info if you'd like.

    The first thing you should do is establish a solid business plan. You know what you want, now you have to be able to convince others that it is a very worthy cause. Your local small business center can help you put together a plan, or you can dive-in on your own. Present your plan and ideas to leaders in your community...philanthropists and community advocates. Form a team of key individuals from your community that can share your plan with others. Once you've established your vision, plan, team and'll be able to begin raising funds. Find an attorney to take on the project pro-bono (many will once you share your vision)...have the attorney establish the business entity. Apply for your 501(c)(3) so that your organization is recognized as a charitable organization and tax-exempt from federal/state tax. Finally, start writing grants to local foundations (hopefully your core team will have clout here). You must constantly share your vision with just about everyone you'll be surprised at how many people you know that have talents they are willing to share for free. Schedule presentations at local service clubs (Lion's, Optimists, Rotary, Kiwanis, etc.).

    I could go on and on. It all starts with a vision Michelle. Pour in persistence and determination and you'll be unstoppable.

  7. #7
    We have a low-rent version of this in my town. I'm very impressed. How/with whom do you staff? We use volunteer therapists, it demands a lot of them and we can only meet once a week. They are mostly OT's, they are creative and have really impacted some lives since I met them. For people who get no rehab it is a Godsend.

  8. #8
    Hi Betheny-

    Actually our version is better than's no rent (I do get your point). Most of our programs and services are based on donated time & space. The gym is a renovated warehouse of sorts...donated space. I am an OT, which helps when someone needs help setting up a program...or if they just need some guidance. We have 1 full-time program director...everyone else volunteers. We've contracted some people and we also employ some through a local restorative justice program. I am not employed by MSUinc....I'm just the founder...and now a big volunteer (my employer became a formal affiliate of MSUinc., which allows me to take care of administrative tasks without conflict).

    Thanks for the response!

    By the way, our new website is scheduled to be launched within the next 10 days...

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