Below is the transcription of a keynote speech ABC Medical's former CEO, current Chairman of the Board of Directors, Keith Jones gave at the Philadelphia Accessibility Conference in April 2016. We are pleased to share the full speech with you, titled “The Powerful Impact of Adaptive Sports” on the anniversary of that inspiring speech. We're grateful for the legacy Keith Jones helped build for ABC Medical with our commitment to adaptive sports as a company. We will continue to support organizations and sports events as long as our mission says "Do Well by Doing Good." Hope you enjoy reading it. Happy National Adaptive Sports Month! #NASM2019
My name is Keith Jones, and I’m the CEO of ABC Medical. We are one of the largest providers of medical supplies in the country. We service our customers in all 50 states. You may say ‘what is it that got you involved with adaptive sports?’ 5 years ago, I can tell you I had no idea what adaptive sports was. I had probably never seen anybody playing wheelchair sports. In 2012, we acquired a company called ABC Medical and shortly after that I went to a National Wheelchair Basketball Association tournament in Colorado. I brought my son, who was 14 years old at the time. Apparently, we had some customers who played wheelchair sports. I brought a film crew to meet and film some of our customers and their parents to get a sense of who were customers were. We were blown away! It changed my life and it changed my son’s life, too. And it changed our entire company’s direction at that point in time. Our mission was to be the largest medical supply company in the country. But we changed it quickly to a company that wants ‘To do well but by doing a lot of good.’ That meant getting involved with a lot of adaptive sports throughout the country. Why did we pick adaptive sports? Other than the experience in Colorado, listening to the experiences of some of the people we met not just the kids but parents, coaches.
What is it about adaptive sports that changes individuals, the community? Potentially the whole country as well. “keeps me going and keeps my head up and stay positive.” This is a quote by a kid named Jeremy whom I met when he was 14. He was hit by a drunk driver at age 9. Five years later he told me, “I wouldn’t have been able to achieve as much as I have if I hadn’t been paralyzed and play wheelchair sports. I have accomplished more than an able- bodied person. This is a 14-year-old kid!
Another impact of adaptive sports you see is socializing. Margaret [Stran] talked about it earlier today. A lot of things she said are things we also found from talking to other people. We met another kid when he was 18 years old. At 14, he had a go-kart accident which resulted in spinal cord injury. He would lock himself up in his room and wouldn’t talk to anyone. One day his recreation therapist introduced him to wheelchair basketball. This kid at that time had a full-ride, academic and athletic scholarships, to a very prestigious university both. It wasn’t Bama, but it was a another very good university. Another guy I met who was a little older, older than me told me his story. He was shot in the back he was younger and paralyzed. He said for years he would sit at his apartment alone and think of different ways to kill himself. One day he went to his rehab and was introduced to wheelchair basketball. He started going a little bit, then a lot. Then he met a girl. Between basketball and the girlfriend, life was good to him. This guy is I think [57 years old now], and he plays every sport you can imagine. I don’t think there’s a time I talk to him during the week that he’s not playing something. He plays poker, softball, shooting, basketball, tennis. He really is more active than many 20-year olds.
The other thing as Margaret mentioned, the impact of adaptive sports on daily life skills. You learn how to transfer yourself out of a chair, how to travel, as a team and go to another city, and simply to get around. You leave your parents and you are just with your coach and teammates. You learn how to live on your own and do the things to survive and be independent.
One of the other things we learned is to become resilient as our friend Harsh says. He lives in DC, great guy. The ability to be resilient. It’s not easy. It’s not easy to play. If you ever saw a wheelchair sports event, especially wheelchair basketball. it’s so fast. The first weekend that I saw wheelchair athletics, this gentleman got tripped up on his chair, did a cartwheel with his chair and just kept going down the court. I was like "Wooow!" This is insane what these guys and gals are doing!
Here Harsh says, it allowed him to pursue things that he thought was impossible.
Amy Saffell, a wonderful person who's the executive director of the non-profit organization Able Youth in Tennessee, says that adaptive sports was the ability for her to believe in herself.
A gentleman whom we know for quite a long time was paralyzed when he was only 17 years old. He was recruited to play NCAA Division I BASKETBALL, able bodied basketball, and had a horrible accident. He roke his back. Struggled for years. He admittedly said he went into drugs and did other things. We just celebrated 43 years playing wheelchair basketball because he just retiredat63 years old I believe. He has 11 gold medals in 3 different sports. He has a lot of different blogs on our website, you can check it out. He says adaptive spots altered his life and it gave him the “P.” I joke with him on that. It’s not the “pee.” We provide urinary catheters, so our customers can “pee,” but it’s ‘P’ for Passion. It gave him the passion for life. He can’t imagine life if he hadn’t been injured. He spent the most of his time coaching young children playing wheelchair basketball and he was also the head coach of the 2012 London Paralympic Women’s Wheelchair basketball team. He talks so much about adaptive sports providing independence.
Somebody mentioned health. It is undoubtedly when you meet wheelchair athletes, you notice they’re healthy. One of the biggest challenges we have as a medical supply provider is that every year, we have to get prescriptions to be able to provide supplies. A lot of our patients never go to the doctor, because they’re healthy because they’re adaptive sports athletes.
I told you how we got involved with adaptive sports, but how did we do it and what did we do differently? Right after that meeting, we defined who we wanted to be and what our mission was going to be. We set out to get involved with as many events as we could. We are on track now in our second year in a row to participate, support financially and be present at about 150 adaptive spots events throughout the country. We cover every sport you can imagine. Such as, wheelchair bowling dancing, you name it, we do it! We look to help these organizations because financially speaking it is expensive to operate for these organizations. It’s also expensive to have a daily chair as well as the basketball or sports chair. A good basketball chair is somewhere between $3,000-$4,000.
One of the ways you can help us is to get the word out about adaptive sports events. Bring someone who’s never seen an adaptive sport before.
Educating our customers and the community on the importance of adaptive sports is very important to us. We declared April as the National Adaptive Sports Month. This being the month of April, this is the [2nd] year we’re doing it. We launched this program to bring awareness to adaptive sports. We have a very active social media presence where we post about different athletes, highlighting their stories, and so on.
We provide scholarships to individuals who want to get involved, whether they want to go to school, buy equipment for their sport, or make a difference in the world. More information is available on our website at www.abc-med.com.
Finally, we launched what’s called the ABC Medical Bridge Program. The idea is bridging the gap from rehab to home. A lot the rehabs nowadays are being pushed to discharge people faster and faster because they’re not going to be able to pay for it. We offer free service to anybody to come in and talk to us about what adaptive resources and organizations are available. We have a thousand resources from across the country, because we’re a national company. Somebody who comes out rehab and wants to go hunting but doesn’t know where to go. Whether they shoot the gun or just sit there, doesn’t matter. We made that happen. We have a gentleman who has 4 kids, his wife’s taking care of them. He feels like he’s not a man anymore. He asked if he can take ballroom dance so he can renew his vows with his wife. We arranged ballroom dance classes for him.
If you know anyone who wants to get involved with an adaptive sport, we encourage you let them know that we can help them do that. Our bridge program makes that happen and our resources are available to everyone. Our goal is to get people to participate in more and more.
The impact of adaptive sports on individual I hope I’ve been able to give you enough information and examples to demonstrate that. Positive influence on the community, these are some of the organizations we work with you ‘ve met Margaret from Alabama AND Bruckner FROM Ocean Positive we work hundreds of them all over the country. The impact of these organizations on the community is to show that just because you’re in a chair, your life is over. It doesn’t mean you can’t compete just as hard as everyone else or you must live your life differently. It gets the community involved and gets them out there.
We talked about Inclusion. Based on what these organizations have done, there is a transition. 5 years ago, I knew nothing about adaptive sports. Now, I am different because I live and breathe adaptive sports. But you’re seeing more on TV. Whether it’s the Guinness commercial, the Nike commercial or the Target commercial. Rio games are coming up would love to know what the coverage is going to be like. You can see the movement going on, you see the schools. in the right direction.
ECAC, one of the oldest athletic conference in the country over 300 schools are part of the conference. They just adopted an inclusion program in which they want to incorporate adaptive athletes with able-bodied athletes. So you would have wheelchair basketball teams, maybe 2 players of which are in a chair and the rest of the team are able bodied. Having an inclusive or adaptive swimming event and be part of the swimming team and count towards the swim team. When you see what’s going on around you, you get very excited about the opportunities.
I hope that one thing you will leave here with is to make an effort to join the National Adaptive Sports Month movement. Whether you blog something to us, like us on social media, attend an event, or try to get the word out about adaptive sports.