Dear Veteran Family,

I wanted to reach out to you and check in.  How are you doing?  I will share with you that this isolation has been difficult for me. I am sure for you too.  I am dealing with a shoulder injury and have not kayaked at all this season.  I am feeling the need for some hard cardio to “run off the stink” if you will.  I am very sympathetic to your needs.  The Bridge II Sports team will continue to do what we can to support each of you near and far.

On that note, I have a few updates and some explanations as the Bridge II Sports team navigates the challenges of COVID-19.

When COVID-19 first hit the news, we moved into action to see how to manage Valor Games Southeast with this challenge.  In four weeks, we went to a virtual event that was very successful, thanks to each of you who participated. Since that time, Katharine has worked to get some amazing presenters who went beyond the limits and found life with disability. Why did we work this way?  Because I, as a person with a disability, need the encouragement too.  With the challenge of COVID-19, I needed to see that I could navigate this time to continue to impact beyond the limit.  For those who may have missed Paralympic Silver Medalist and Army Veteran John Register at Opening Ceremony or extreme-sport athlete, adventurer and blind Navy Veteran Lonnie Bedwell I recommend checking them out.  You can also look back at Virtual VGSE webinars and our BIIS Porch Time series.

My next steps were to discover how Bridge II Sports could support physical activity for athletes with disabilities in our local community during this time. Our amazing intern Sheridyn and I worked to develop one of the most comprehensive COVID-19 prevention policies in adapted sports programs.  Yes, we are cleaning the office daily – surfaces, doorknobs, light switches…you name it!  Each program has a specific ‘Playing It Safe’ COVID-19 plan for implementing with emphasis on safely distancing, sanitizing and mandatory mask wearing. .  This was a group effort for our small team, but we heard the need and wanted to find a “Yes”.  I am proud to say we have been able to successfully run archery, air rifle, boccia, and cycling programs since June.  These are dynamic groups because they have blended our youth, young adults, Veterans, and community with diverse disabilities.  We are learning the abilities that we all have, overcoming our own views of adapted sports and disability limits.  #NoLimits!

Where are we now?  Through many hours of conversations, debates, and challenging our own thoughts of finding the “Yes” with COVID-19, we have some plans in place for our Veteran community as I understand the need to connect and find community and camaraderie. Remember, I want to safely provide that for you.

  1. Valor Games SE Veteran Sports Day. On September 18th Bridge II Sports is hosting an IN PERSON event exclusively for Veterans with disabilities. I am limited to the numbers who can participate as our Governor continued our limited gathering for another five weeks in Phase 2.  We will have space for 15 Veterans to join us and have sent information to VGSE athletes in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. It is expected that you are close enough to drive.  I do not want anyone taking a plane or bus and increase the potential for coronavirus contact.  Masks will be required both in the hotel and on site at the event.  For some, this may be too restrictive.  I want you safe because I care about you.  I would be heartbroken if one of you got COVID-19 while traveling here.  I understand the need for adapted sports for all of us and have plans that will include ALL.  Keep reading.
  1. Remote Cycling Event. Katharine has been working with Bruce, the same guy who manages our cycling event at Valor Games SE exploring ways to make this possible.  She found the “Yes”!  This event will be open to any Veteran with a disability in the country and territories.  Be on the lookout for these details coming out soon.
  1. Fit Bit Program. I know that cycling is not the sport for everyone who lives with limits. There is going to be a Fit-Bit Program with a series of challenges coming up soon that will have different ways you can be engaged and active.  You will be able to participate at home without a full gym.  And, YES, I will be doing this one with you! Why?  Because I cannot do what I typically do, and I need the help too.  The team is working with some of our amazing Veteran volunteers from sponsoring organizations here in the Triangle to be team leads and help keep us encouraged with the different challenges that come up.  There will be some fun awards for participation.  This will be open to Veterans with a disability across the country and territories.  Can your family and friends join you in this quest?  Yes!  Let’s have fun while we are being safe.  Good-natured junk talk is welcomed 😊

I know how much staying active during this time is important for our physical health, mental health, and emotional health.  I ask for your support and participation as we try to navigate adapted sports in the new challenge of COVID-19.  I believe in you.  The Bridge II Sports team believes in you and have worked many hours to find the “Yes” for all of us.  Stay tuned to your inbox and the Bridge II Sports Weekly Update for the latest details.

Building the Bridge Together,

Ashley Thomas

BIIS Founder & CEO

ashley thomas paddling in a blue kayak on lake crabtree