CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A Charlotte organization helps athletes with disabilities stay active during the pandemic.
Para Guide offers walking, running, cycling and swimming opportunities for them. The nonprofit’s mission is to support adaptive athletes in their pursuit of accessibility, inclusion and equity.
Victor Parks is one of the adaptive athletes they serve. The 64-year-old started losing his vision and hearing 30 years ago due to a genetic disorder called retinitis pigmentosa.
Today, Parks navigates the world with the help of a cane and hearing aids.
“My cane is my friend to help me know there’s an object right there,” Parks said.
He stays active at home practicing yoga and pilates. During the pandemic, he’s preferred to do the exercises at home instead of going to group classes.
“I kind of miss it. It has been a good two years, so everything is pretty much at the house,” Parks said.
Three years ago, Chad Roberts became his running partner.
Roberts is a volunteer with Para Guide. The organization pairs sighted guides, like Roberts, with adaptive athletes.
Roberts serves as their eyes on the road and a rope binds him to Parks during their run.
“I allow him to run at his own pace, anywhere he wants to run. I just tell him what’s in front of him and make sure folks don’t hit him,” Roberts said.
Safety is always a priority.
“You gotta be paying attention to what’s going on around you because you are not only watching out for yourself, you’re watching out for somebody else,” Roberts said.
However, they keep it fun.
“Honestly, spending time with Victor is the part I like the best,” Roberts said.
Parks is glad this organization is helping him stay active, and he’s also happy to have made a new friend.
“It’s a lot of work, and I get to hear Chad’s jokes,” Parks said.
The running partners like each other’s company so much, they’ve participated in 22 races together and look forward to many more.
For Parks, this run and walk around his neighborhood is the highlight of the week.
During the pandemic, Para Guide has also gifted home fitness equipment to more than 30 adaptive athletes.