It goes without saying that an organization is only as good as its invested parties. Well, Coastal Adaptive is blessed with many that are personally invested with time or talents or support. Abby Banks is one of those blessings. Let’s meet her and hear about her experience with adaptive sports.
- What can you tell us about yourself?
Abby: I live in Greenwood, South Carolina. I’m a wife and mom of 3 kids. A son, Jay; a daughter, Austin; and another son, Wyatt.
- How did you find out about Coastal Adaptive and what drew you to get involved?
Abby: I found out through social media trying to be involved in the special needs community. When our son Wyatt was 7 months old, he was healthy but then became paralyzed overnight. It was a one in a million thing. We had never known anyone with a disability, no family or friends with disability. We wanted to find things to get Wyatt involved. I ran track and cross country in college.
Wyatt’s activities had been taken away. He got the use of his arms soon after. We wanted him to know he could do anything, and we were looking for something to do that would encourage him to move. We wanted him to grow up with an attitude of, “Well, why couldn’t I do that?”
I saw surf clinics in California but then saw that it was available in Myrtle Beach. Wyatt was 3 at that point. We thought adaptive sports would be good for Jay and Austin, too, and that it would be fun for the whole family. We didn’t know what it would look like. We were really excited at how organized it was and how cared for we were. Safety was a top priority. Wyatt was made to feel like an athlete. He was saying things like, “When do I get to go surfing again?” and “No, I can surf. I can go surfing. Wyatt doesn't know any different. He doesn’t know that people said he couldn’t do things. Other people made a way and we’re super thankful.
- What can you tell us about your experience?
Abby: I was scared as a mom. It looked like they were going out too far. It was not what I pictured. I thought, “What have I done with my baby?" But Wyatt loved every second. He would say, "I'm scared but I want to do it anyway." I loved that mentality. It teaches about life, to not be afraid to overcome. It's okay to do scary things. You might fail at it, you can still enjoy a sport even if you're not the best at it. It’s good to see yourself get better, but it's okay to do something and not be great but still keep doing it. It’s been so fun to watch his smile. He lights up when he knows he does well.
- What to tell others that are hesitant to join? To serve?
Abby: As a participant, they do so much to relieve the fear to make you feel safe. I had questions answered. There’s so much freedom in the water. When he's in the water, he looks just like his friends, getting in there and feeling like everyone else. It’s freedom. It's a joy to watch.
From a volunteer perspective, the adaptive sports volunteer gets more than the participants. We get to see them have joy and celebrate and see families celebrate. It’s heartwarming seeing the participants celebrate over fear. It’s a great day, and they’re often realizing they got more than they gave at the end of the day.
- How has it blessed your family?
Abby: It made us realize that the beach is accessible. We think things will be taken away, and granted it's harder, but realizing that things are still doable, in an environment with friends that are more able is good. It’s good for the other children to see, too. Jay and Austin got surf lessons, for example. It's for the family and not just the athlete.
- What surprised you?
Abby: I was surprised by the number of volunteers and the number it takes to put the adaptive sports events on. It’s a beautiful sight. People underestimate the time and effort - the Coastal Adaptive volunteers do an amazing job, all the people that have to come together.
- What is your hope for Coastal Adaptive?
Abby: I hope they grow so that South Carolina can see what it looks like to have a great adaptive sports program. Until you have a special needs child you often don’t see the need or what it takes. Healthy doesn’t just happen. It takes work. The person needs to move and be a part of something, be a part of a community. Representation matters, and that a person with needs can see other adaptive people and have people to look up to, and it helps others to value people.
- Anything you would like to add?
Abby: You can do anything you want. We just have to do it a little differently.
Abby and her family clearly love being a part of a great adaptive sports organization. If you know someone who would benefit from Coastal Adaptive or someone that would love to help out, have them contact us here. Also, be sure to stay up to date with our events and programs here and read our other blogs here!
Wanna get involved? You may also volunteer to help out with a Coastal Adaptive Sports event by clicking here.