Teacher With Severe Arthritis Urges Others With Disabilities To Stay Active

Friday, December 13, 2019 - by Joseph Dycus
Sharon Stolberg
Sharon Stolberg
- photo by Joseph Dycus

It may have been a rainy day, but the dreary weather did little to dampen Sharon Stolberg’s enthusiasm when speaking about SPARC (Sport, Art, and Recreation of Chattanooga) to the Civitan Club.

The teacher at Hunter Middle School, who has suffered from a severe form of arthritis for her entire life, has devoted herself to helping children with disabilities. She does so by encouraging disabled students to participate in adaptive sports.

Adaptive sports, such as wheelchair basketball, use unique equipment to make those activities accessible to people with disabilities. Possessing the ability to play these sports has several benefits to children and adults, said the middle school teacher.

“Adaptive sports really increase confidence,” said Ms. Stolberg on the benefits of adaptive sports, “They’re a good bridge builder between the disabled and the non-disabled population, and they help with strength and weight control.”

Ms. Stolberg has been a proponent of adaptive sports for almost 15 years. Although they did not exist when she was a child, nothing stopped her from enjoying them as an adult. 

“I started horseback riding in 2005 in Cleveland, and then I got into adaptive water skiing, and it sort of avalanched after that,” said the speaker on how she got into adaptive sports.

Ever since she started with SPARC, which is focused on adaptive sports, she has seen it grow from small beginnings into a widely accepted organization. And with growth, it has made her job much easier. 

“I think the demand has grown, and the acceptance has grown,” said Ms. Stolberg, “The willingness of people to work and modify has grown too. Going from having to scrounge for volunteers, and now we have many more volunteers than we would have a few years ago. It’s just more public now, and more of an accepted thing, which is huge.”

While adaptive sports are a blessing for many children, they can be a pricey endeavor for families. Organizations such as the Civitan Club often provide the funds necessary to make the crucial equipment needed for adaptive sports.

“With the kids in the area, the Civitan Clubs are really essential to get things like adaptive bikes for them,” said Ms. Stolberg.


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