From Our Executive Director

Since my family and I left England in 2003, I have been battling a body that does not want to conform or stabilize.

My beloved son, John, describes it as idiopathic syndrome: a term used primarily in medicine meaning arising spontaneously or from an obscure or unknown cause.

Suffice it to say that I battle a body that can change daily. I use a wheelchair, but importantly, I have discovered a life with sports. I hold a position on the U.S. National Parakayak team. I also have founded, and now run, a fast-growing non-profit called Bridge II Sports. Our organization develops programs that allow youth and adults with physical disabilities to participate in recreation, exercise and competitive sports. It grew out of the discoveries I made through a life of chronic pain and having lived with spina bifida all my life.

From that journey, I learned that sport revitalizes self-esteem. Sports allow you to manage an aspect of life when your world is otherwise full of daily turmoil. It builds mental tenacity that can help push you through the daily challenges of a broken body. I gained social capital, became a part of my community, and interacted with others in a meaningful and rewarding way. I found laughter again. Fear increasingly took a back seat. Hope arose, and pointed to a new tomorrow. This hope is the catalyst that allows me to give to others, encouraging them on their journeys.

Through this process of healing I found a new compassion for those who suffer a variety of physical issues, who feel like they live in a box, or feel they are being punished for some unknown reason. I find renewed energy each day to visit forgotten places: places where the pain is so great that it immobilizes suffering people, as well as the family and friends who surround them. I have seen lives change by the healing power of hope, which, like a wave, extends to others.

I hope you will be a part of the life-changing work at Bridge II Sports.

– Ashley Thomas