You can see the difference, sometimes in an hour or two, says Chris Goad ’93, executive director of RISE Adaptive Sports.
The Irving nonprofit offers physically challenged members the equipment they need to sail, swim, water-ski, kayak, hand-cycle, and wheelchair motocross, as well as play rugby and power soccer. Quadriplegic since damaging his spinal cord at age 17, Goad understands the value of sports for those living with paralysis.
“The psychological benefits outweigh the physical,” he says. “Sports are a conduit, a reason for people to challenge themselves and interact with others.”
At UTA he lettered in wheelchair track, qualified at the national level in table tennis, and played quad rugby. His mentor was the late Jim Hayes, the legendary Movin’ Mavs basketball coach who fought for and won wheelchair accessibility on campus.
“If not for Jim and his drive to push those modifications into place, I probably wouldn’t have attended,” Goad says. “I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today.”
After being laid off as head of logistics at a Fortune 150 company, Goad began volunteering for RISE. The atmosphere reminded him of the challenge, camaraderie, and exhilaration he’d missed since graduating. After joining the organization in 2012, he has focused on marketing and finding corporate sponsors.
“Adaptive sports equipment is expensive. It’s a huge investment for a family already beset with medical costs,” he says. “That’s why founder Paul Gray has made RISE 100 percent free for all members and their families.”
Goad attends as many RISE programs as possible. “It keeps me going. I’ve seen how lives can change.”