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The Promise of Hope – Augusta Magazine

Jennifer McKee

Photos courtesy of Lynn Seidemann and @ellen_wheelchairfencing on Instagram

Augusta is home to several Paralympians, many of whom are medalists. Kinga Kiss-Johnson is a retired U.S. Army Sergeant who competed in para archery with Team USA from 2012-2016. She was ranked No. 8 in the world and No. 1 in the United States in 2016 in Para-recurve (which refers to the type of bow used).

Ellen Geddes competed in fencing at the Paralympic Games. She won her first medal on the World Cup circuit in 2014 and calls winning double top eights in Kyoto in 2018 her favorite fencing memory.

Lynn Seidemann is a four-time Paralympian. She won a silver medal in tennis doubles in 1992 (Barcelona) with her partner Nancy Olson and a silver medal in dressage in 2004 (Athens) on the horse Phoenix B.

And the list goes on.

The common thread among these Paralympians? They have all been part of the Savannah River Region’s growing adaptive sports scene.

“It’s a whole new life filled to the brim, thanks to all those individuals who have made adaptive sports an important part of the community,” says Seidemann. “I am very happy that there are so many people who really want to promote and offer adaptive sports in this area.”

Seidemann mainly plays wheelchair tennis when he practices adaptive sports in the area.

“Walton Options has been instrumental in providing the necessary support to promote this (wheelchair tennis) program,” said Seidemann. “I look forward to working with them to make the program even better.”

Walton Options’ philosophy on independent living means that people with disabilities should have control over their choices, not just live on their own or perform tasks independently, says Tiffany L. Clifford, executive director of Walton Options.

“The most important thing we do is provide living examples, practical resources and strength as advocates to ensure that every generation has more access and equality than in the past,” says Clifford. “We do this through a variety of our community resources, partners, allies and government agencies that will help the individual achieve their personal goal.”

Clifford believes that adaptive sports are a valuable part of a person’s entire life. “People with disabilities want to enjoy themselves and we have diverse interests. We want to know that we are welcomed, appreciated and taken into account when programs and businesses are created, whether they are sports venues, theaters, parks, etc. We are consumers of products and services, neighbors and colleagues,” she says.

“We also know that research shows that people who exercise are generally happier and healthier. Lately, we have begun to focus directly on how we can help students with disabilities participate, as statistics show that those who engage in extracurricular activities are 80% more likely to graduate.

“We have long seen this kind of research for other minorities, so it makes sense that it also applies to students with disabilities. We also know that sports programs are sub-communities that connect people, so as part of our mission it is critical that we take it upon ourselves to advocate for access through adaptive equipment, accommodations and education.”

Walton Options’ offerings include adaptive golf, wheelchair tennis and accessible recreation camps. A full list of sports and leisure activities available in the area can be found on the Walton Options website at waltonoptions.org/adaptive-sports.


Seen in the 2024 June/July issue of Augusta magazine.