Sportable Heroes

Grace Ross: Athlete of the Year

“I was never involved with any kind of sport or played on a team growing up. My multiple sclerosis has slowed down because I am active. I am so grateful for finding Sportable.”

Grace Ross is this year’s Sportable Athlete of the Year because of her determination to try just about any sport we offer and for being a tireless advocate and volunteer for our organization. When she isn’t cycling on the Capital Trail, kayaking on the James, or playing on the tennis court, you’ll find Grace recruiting others in her MS support network to join her.

Join us in celebrating Grace as Sportable’s Athlete of the Year presented by SouthState Bank. Thank you to SouthState for matching all gifts in Grace’s honor with a $1,000 donation.

Crystal Jordan: Spirit Award

“When someone throws down the gauntlet, you’ve got to pick it up.”

Our 2021 Spirit Award winner, Crystal Jordan, exemplifies the positive nature and spirit of a true Sportable athlete. Whether it is dying her hair orange and blue or trying just about every sport we offer, Crystal’s encouraging spirit lifts everyone up around her.

Crystal started her Sportable journey when her recreational therapist challenged her to try road racing in 2015. After completing her first event at the Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10K, she was hooked.

With such a vivacious personality, Crystal is easy to like, but she says there is something special about the friends she has made in the adaptive sports community. “They understand what you’re going through, understand your rough days, and build you up,” she explains. And competing in 10Ks and half marathons with both adaptive athletes and able-bodied athletes, “makes you feel more connected to the community as a whole,” she adds.

Crystal is living proof that there is no age, season of life, or medical crisis that can prevent the birth of an athlete. Road racing is where Crystal’s athletic journey started and, like so many Sportable athletes, she isn’t looking back.

Support a Sportable Hero like Crystal at Sportable.org/Donate.

Eleanor Angle: Rookie of the Year

“I felt endorphins for the first time since my stroke. I was cycling!”

Staying active and pursuing fitness was ingrained into the 2021 Rookie of the Year Eleanor Angle’s psyche. Prior to her stroke, she was a competitive runner, tennis and squash player, and active outdoors.

While recovering at the Sheltering Arms Institute, she recognized that Sportable provided her not only a way to compete again, but also to connect into a community of adaptive athletes and become, once again, a part of a team.

Since her first bike ride, Eleanor has shown up for almost everything Sportable offers–kayaking, rowing, archery, cycling, pickleball, and wheelchair tennis, to name a few. Like so many Sportable athletes, she isn’t looking back.

To honor our Sportable Heroes, the Hieber Family matched all gifts with a $1,000 donation. Support a Sportable Hero at Sportable.org/Donate.

Rybec Insurance: Corporate Partner of the Year

“What I’ve enjoyed most is getting to know so many athletes at Sportable and getting to know their stories.”

Ryan Hickey, owner of Sportable’s 2021 Corporate Partner of the Year Rybec Insurance, walked into Sportable headquarters four years ago for the first time with a check in hand to support the mission.

Ever since, Ryan has become one of our most enthusiastic sports fans. He and his two sons most recently cheered on our power soccer team, the Hive, at the Commonwealth Cup Power Soccer Tournament that Rybec sponsored.

More than just a sponsor, however, Ryan is a committed advocate of Sportable’s mission and connects with the young Sportable athletes. From his own experience with dyslexia growing up, he knows how important it is to find confidence and connection in a community of peers.

To honor our Sportable Heroes, the Hieber Family matched all gifts with a $1,000 donation. Support a Sportable Hero at Sportable.org/Donate.

Jakob Gorton: Collegiate Student-Athlete of the Year

“Without Sportable, I would have had nowhere to play wheelchair basketball. Having the community, the access to play basketball helped me get where I am today.”

University of Texas-Arlington wheelchair basketball player and Sportable’s Collegiate Student-Athlete of the Year, Jakob Gorton is known for being a high energy team player with a tenacious work ethic.

A two-time champion, Jakob also has a knack for collecting national titles. In his first year with the Sportable Spokes Varsity wheelchair basketball team at age 14, the Spokes won the NWBA National Invitation Tournament in Louisville, Kentucky.

He was not on the wheelchair basketball team when he first got to UTA in 2020, but that did not stop him from showing up for practice ready to play. It did not take long before the head coach offered him an official spot on the roster. A few months later, he was lifting the Collegiate National Wheelchair Basketball Championship trophy.

To honor our Sportable Heroes, the Hieber Family matched all gifts with a $1,000 donation. Support a Sportable Hero at Sportable.org/Donate.

Blaire Chandler & Sarah Nockengost: Coaches of the Year

“We love the swimming program because it is so diverse in what athletes can get out of it. We have kids that come and really just want time to have fun and get comfortable in the water and then we will have someone 2 laps away training for a triathalon.”

Swimming is one of Sportable’s most popular and most accessible programs. And unlike some sports, it runs almost continuously year-round. The demanding schedule is made possible by our star Coaches of the Year, Blaire Chandler and Sarah Nockengost.

Blaire and Sarah met in 2013 as students in VCU’s physical therapy program. They got involved as volunteers with Sportable two years later and quickly became the faces of Sportable swimming.

Serving an adaptive sports organization is a natural fit, as Blaire explains, “Sportable is the best! As a physical therapist and active person, the mission of providing accessibility to those with disabilities just naturally makes my heart happy.”

To honor our Sportable Heroes, The Schmitt Family matched all gifts up to $1,000. Support a Sportable Hero at Sportable.org/Donate.

Chesterfield County: Community Partner of the Year

“This picture says 1,000 words. Kayaking is a great equalizer. Once you are on the water for the first time, it doesn’t matter whether you have a disability or not—the experience of freedom and awe is the same.”

Greg Velzy and his staff at Chesterfield Parks and Recreation Outdoor Adventure are more than happy to share their love of the outdoors with our athletes. They enthusiastically introduce kayaking and archery to people of all abilities and ages.

Chesterfield County not only provided accessible facilities for 11 of our programs last year, but its commitment to our mission and the deep passion its employees have for supporting our work earned the County this year’s Community Partner Award.

To honor our Sportable Heroes, The Schmitt Family matched all gifts up to $1,000. Support a Sportable Hero at Sportable.org/Donate.

River City Slam: Event of the Year

Sportable made national headlines last summer thanks to the overwhelming success of the first annual River City Slam wheelchair tennis tournament. More than 50 players from 19 states coast-to-coast traveled to Richmond for the tournament.

During the tournament, junior players were also treated to a one-of-a-kind camp, led by Paralympian Shelby Baron. Several junior players aspire to play wheelchair tennis in college and even compete in the Paralympics for Team USA. Those goals are not out of reach for these teens—if they continue to have access to the sport.

Catch the River City Slam June 10-12, 2022 when world class competition returns to the Collegiate School’s Robins Campus.

To honor our Sportable Heroes, The Schmitt Family matched all gifts up to $1,000. Support a Sportable Hero at Sportable.org/Donate.

Jessie Oliff: Veteran of the Year

“I no longer have a rucksack to fill for my country. So if I can’t serve my country in the military, I can at least serve my community’s overlooked heroes!”

Jessie served two combat tours in the US Army before finding Sportable through the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Hospital in 2017.

That same year, Jessie joined Sportable’s power soccer team, The Hive. Power soccer is the only adaptive team sport designed exclusively for power wheelchair users. Jessie became a star player and eventually the beloved coach.

When she is not encouraging her players on and off the court and delivering enthusiastic pep talks, she is serving on the board of the Paralyzed Veterans of America Mid-Atlantic Chapter.

Join C&F Mortgage, this week’s $5,000 sponsor, to support our #SportableHeroes by making a donation at Sportable.org/donate.

Jack Ridolphi: Youth Athlete of the Year

“It’s exciting. There aren’t other team sports I can do. Power soccer allows me to be competitive and just have fun.”

Jack is a determined and bright 17-year old who has been a consummate team player with Sportable for more than 10 years.

So it was no surprise when he made his debut in his newly crafted Strike Force chair, designed specifically for power soccer, at the 2021 Commonwealth Cup tournament, he was greeted by cheers, chants, and high fives.

Set to graduate high school in June of 2022, Jack plans to attend VCU this fall and pursue a degree in engineering.

Join C&F Mortgage, this week’s $5,000 sponsor, to support our #SportableHeroes by making a donation at Sportable.org/donate.

Spencer West: Volunteer of the Year

“Sportable is made up of a lot of people who really love what they do and love to make an impact on people.”

Unassuming and full of heart, Spencer is the definition of going above and beyond.

As a physical therapy student at VCU with a career goal of serving children with disabilities, Spencer threw himself into volunteering with Sportable when his classes went virtual in 2020.

Whether a program needs someone to assemble chairs, rebound balls, or jump in a wheelchair and play in a scrimmage, Spencer is always ready with a smile on his face. His enthusiasm has inspired a steady stream of physical therapy classmates to volunteer alongside him.

Frank and Jane Berry: Donors of the Year

“Sportable has changed the life of my grandson, Tyler, and so many kids like him in a way that no amount of money can. I just can’t imagine where my grandson would be today without Sportable.”

For the past ten years, a check arrives at the beginning of each month from Frank Berry and his wife Jane. It is their way of saying thank you to the organization that has transformed their grandson’s life through wheelchair basketball.

We selected the Berrys as our Donors of the Year to show our appreciation to them and to share how valuable a monthly contribution can be to an organization. As for Tyler, wheelchair basketball became his path to higher education. He has committed to play as a freshman at Southern Minnesota State University.