I have been told that as a leader, I adjust quickly and am very resilient.  The comments always catch me off guard.  I have had to examine these words because I did not initially understand them.  As I have become older and reflected on life with spina bifida and using a wheelchair, I have begun to understand the perspective and accept this kind compliment.

With the many challenges of COVID-19, my foremost concerns as the leader of Bridge II Sports have been to do what is necessary to keep the mission alive as well as keep my strong, compassionate, mission-driven team intact.  I think personally, staying at home was a blessing in disguise as I am usually out drumming up support and managing situations (meetings that are not easily accessible by chair) that often are physically difficult at my age.  Being at home allowed me to put time and energy into the actions needed to plan and execute as we continue to navigate the COVID-19 challenge. Let me give a little more insight.

Collage of all Bridge II Sports staff photos

I would like to proudly share with you what our mighty team of 10 (6 full-time and 3 part-time staff plus our former intern) has accomplished over the last 6 weeks:

  • Mary, our CFO, and I immediately went into action and secured the Economic Injury Disaster Funds, Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Funds, SBA Funds, and renegotiated grants won where we were in the process of providing services and current grants recently won for services to be provided, all toward the goal of securing our future.
  • The audit and 990 were completed and we received Guidestar’s 2020 Platinum Seal of Transparency.
  • Our Programs team -Wes, Akeem, Daisy, and Jessica (spring intern) developed virtual work-out plans and our own “Porch Times” learning about adapted sports, tips and tricks, as well as “Virtual Practice” for our boccia team and youth basketball team, all toward the goal of keeping people engaged and encouraged, while keeping our athletes from feeling isolated.
  • With foresight, Events Manager Katharine quickly pivoted our Valor Games SE plan and climbed a steep technology learning curve to deliver Virtual Valor Games SE the week of May 18-21.  She successfully engaged Veteran-focused organizations in our community to take part sharing valuable resources with VGSE athletes.  She is also working closely with the core planning team from MetLife and Cisco to deliver an adapted sports competition for Veterans with disabilities in September.
  • Kathy, our Events Assistant, served as our ‘voice’ maintaining contact with our Valor Games SE athletes through personalized phone calls and follow up.
  • Brad, Marketing Manager, supported all the work being done in many ways. Brad’s skills for marketing, social media, and web design have had a major impact.  We even saw his phrasing ‘challenging perceptions of disability’ used by a national organization. He continues to honor our athetes, our sponsors, and share our important stories.
  • John Book (volunteer) Wes, Akeem, Daisy and I proactively used this time to reorganize the warehouse. I was so proud of this group, four individuals living with disabilities (two amputees, two chairs) and one able-bodied, did a mountain of work!  #NoLimits
  • Gloria, our Business Office Manager, and I organized our records to provide uniform reporting and re-organized our filing system, which has been in place for the last 14 years. Lucky Gloria!  Gloria is ordering supplies and keeping the office clean and sanitized, preparing for us to return. She has also taken on the large task of organizing all our digital photos (Brad is extremely thankful!)
  • We all have been learning how to use WebEx (Thank you Cisco for sponsoring our own system). We continue to have staff and committee meetings, and “check-ins.”  I must say, we have all engaged and learned!
  • The Bridge II Sports Executive Committee (Bill Marty, John Flynt, Ruth Anderson, Bruce Adkins) have stayed engaged as we traverse these difficult times. Other Board members helped navigate the SBA trainings and applications. Others have been supporting programs and their new initiatives giving feedback and helping find solutions. We all feel the support. Thank you.
  • Lock-Laces came forth to offer fundraising to help us in this lean time (Check it out)

I believe disability has taught me to see from a different lens.  I often had to think of new paths and develop skills to access what I needed.  I have learned that I cannot do it all, and to lean on others who have skills to support the goal that needs to be accomplished. I have learned to push the envelope as far as it can go and watch while amazing things happen in the end.  Disability has taught me to know when to recognize that I need to change course. Disability has taught me to not give up.

I do need your support.  The truth is we are not out of the woods.  Although we had successes in some areas, we did not achieve success in all areas due to COVID-19 and will have a significant shortfall.  We need your help to continue to secure our future.  I have an amazing team and we all need to keep adapted sport alive  in the Triangle and the State of North Carolina.
Would you consider joining the 360 Club as a monthly donor to sustain our foundation?

I remain hopeful, and see new opportunities coming with the skills we have learned from the challenge of COVID-19.  Please join us on our journey!

Building the Bridge together,

Ashley Thomas
Founder and CEO
Bridge II Sports

picture of Ashley in Kayak in background with an empty wheelchair in the foreground