U.S. Sport Professionals Travel to Armenia

US participants who will travel to Armenia
U.S. participants from left to right: Carly Schmidt, Connor Inslee, Mary Hodge, Jenny Kern, and Daniel Ferreira
Youth with disabilities involvement in sports is imperative to build self-esteem and confidence, and improve the quality of life of people with disabilities.

In June, five professionals from the United States will participate in the first part of a reciprocal exchange with Armenia to expand opportunities for youth with disabilities to engage in sports. Read the press release available for download.

The U.S. participants selected for the program have extensive expertise in disability-inclusive programming and various sports, most notably wheelchair basketball, powerlifting, adaptive cycling, and swimming. During the exchange to Armenia, the U.S. delegation will collaborate with local community members and government leaders, visit sports programs and disabled people’s organizations, host interactive workshops and sports demonstrations, and co-facilitate activities at the National Disability Sports Festival in Yerevan.

“It is the right of every child to be included in society be it through academia or sport. Sport brings all people together and assist[s] a child with a disability in achieving that competitive, driven feeling that all children should have a chance to experience.” Mary Hodge, Head Coach, U.S. Paralympics

“One of things that excites me most about this opportunity is the [chance] to network with a group of like-minded people where we get to share our experiences, and brainstorm about ideas on how to change the world. I not only see this as an opportunity to help change the disability community in [Armenia], but to continue to push for the rights of people with disabilities within communities in our country.” Daniel Ferreira, Adaptive Sport Program Event Facilitator, Chicago Park District.

The program is sponsored by the SportsUnited Division of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State. Learn more about the program in "Increasing Sports Opportunities for Armenian Youth with Disabilities."

Organizations represented among the delegation include: Chicago Park District, U.S. Paralympics, Outdoors for All Foundation, Bay Area Outreach and Recreation Program (BORP), and Oregon Disability Sports. Read their profiles and learn more about their work below.

Daniel Ferreira
Adaptive Sport Program Event Facilitator, Chicago Park District
Chicago, Illinois

Daniel is the Adaptive Sport Program Event Facilitator at Chicago Park District, an organization that provides recreation and leisure activities and maintains parks in the Chicago area. Through his work, Daniel leads a sport program partnered with the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago offering wheelchair basketball, track and field, and wheelchair softball.

He is a wheelchair basketball athlete and has been involved in the sport in many capacities including as a student athlete at the University of Wisconsin– Whitewater, Assistant Coach at the University of Illinois men’s and women’s programs, and Assistant Coach to the U.S. men’s national team.

Daniel is the Chairman of the National Wheelchair Basketball Association’s Championship Division where he serves as an advocate for grassroots teams throughout the U.S. He has also traveled to Japan on multiple occasions to work with communities on wheelchair basketball initiatives. Daniel has Osteogenisus Imperfecta and uses a wheelchair.

Mary Hodge
Head Coach, USA Para Powerlifting, U.S. Paralympics
Farmingdale, New York

Mary is the Head Coach for the USA Para Powerlifting team and represents U.S. Paralympics and the National Governing Body site at the University of Central Oklahoma. Within her role, Mary has provided leadership to the sport for 11 years, and has coached multiple Paralympic, world championship, and Para Pan American teams.

Mary has been instrumental in successful efforts to grow and rebuild the sport of Powerlifting in the United States and has developed training courses for athletes, coach education programs, and train-the-trainer programs.

Additionally, Mary has 27 years of experience working with United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) where her interest in sport was initiated when she started a sports team for athletes with disabilities. Mary has traveled internationally in her role as a coach to Australia, Brazil, China, Greece, Malaysia, Mexico, South Korea, United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom. Mary is non-disabled.

Connor Inslee
Chief Operating Officer, Outdoors for All Foundation
Seattle, Washington

Connor is the Chief Operating Officer for Outdoors for All Foundation, an organization that administers adaptive recreation programs for over 2,300 children and adults with disabilities. Within his role, Connor develops and implements new and existing programs, delivers adaptive training programs, and manages adaptive equipment among other responsibilities.

Connor has six years of experience administering diverse adaptive recreation programs including cycling, kayaking, rock climbing, and a U.S. Paralympic-modeled training program for alpine skiers. He has successfully developed partnerships to provide adaptive recreation to local communities. Most recently, Connor oversaw the implementation of a drop-in adaptive cycle program where he offers expertise in adaptive equipment and techniques.

Connor is an avid skier, kayaker, and sailor, and also serves on the Board of the Washington Water Trails Association and leads environmental education-based kayak tours. He has traveled throughout Europe and, in partnership with the World Affairs Council of Seattle, has hosted foreign delegations to discuss adaptive recreation in the U.S. Connor is non-disabled.

Jenny Kern
New-Rider Coach & Participant, Bay Area Outreach and Recreation Program (BORP)
Berkeley, California

Jenny represents the Bay Area Outreach and Recreation Program (BORP), a non-profit organization that works to ensure that youth and adults with disabilities have access to sports and recreation opportunities, where she is involved with the adaptive cycling program as a participant and coach to new volunteers and riders. Among her many accomplishments, Jenny has served as a high school crew coach, coached a team of women rowers to compete internationally and has served as an informal coach to women in the sports of cycling, swimming and rugby.

Jenny has a background in law with extensive experience and expertise in building coalitions between Disabled People’s Organizations (DPOs), funders, legal communities, and the development community. She has been active in the international disability rights movement with a particular focus on women and girls with disabilities, and attended the U.N. Fourth World Conference on Women NGO Forum in China in 1995.

She has since led workshops on the inclusion of women and girls with disabilities in employment in Uzbekistan and Costa Rica, trainings in wheelchair building in Uganda and Mexico, and has also traveled to Kenya, Germany, and the Netherlands. Jenny has a physical disability and uses wheelchair.

Carly Schmidt
Youth Program Manager, Oregon Disability Sports
Portland, Oregon

Carly is a Youth Program Manager with Oregon Disability Sports, a non-profit organization that provides recreational, fitness, and competitive sports opportunities for people with physical disabilities. She is responsible for creating and maintaining a variety of sports programs for youth ages 6 - 21 including wheelchair basketball, adaptive swimming, track and field, and hand cycling. She outreaches to schools and organizations to create partnerships for new or expanded sports programs and maintains adaptive equipment for the organization.

Carly also works as a Recreational Therapist at Shriners Hospital for Children. Previously, she worked with the City of Eugene Adaptive Recreation Services assisting with strategic planning, sports development, and coached a variety of adaptive sports including cycling, skiing, and rowing. While in Eugene, she coached the University of Oregon Rowing Team for five years and developed and managed an adaptive rowing program in collaboration with stakeholder groups.

She has personal travel experience to Australia, Canada, Iceland, Mexico, New Zealand, and Peru. Carly is an outdoor enthusiast and is currently training for the Iron Woman competition in 2015. Carly is non-disabled.