Hillsborough County Parks & Recreation has received the National Innovation in Social Equity Award for its 1-year-old wheelchair football team.
The Innovation in Social Equity Award recognizes an innovative project or program that creates more equitable communities by improving access to local parks and recreation experiences for all residents. The National Recreation and Park Association announced the award this week.
Hillsborough County Parks & Recreation has long had an active adaptive sports program featuring wheelchair basketball, track and field, archery, and other sports for those with disabilities. Until last year, though, the lineup of sports didn’t include wheelchair football.
That changed in 2021, when the Hillsborough County Buccaneers Wheelchair Football Team was born. Parks & Recreation held tryouts last summer to create a team that would participate in the USA Wheelchair Football League.
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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers provided team shorts, T-shirts, and Buccaneers helmet decals. Former Bucs player Dexter Jackson, the MVP of the Buccaneers’ win in Super Bowl XXXVII, gave a pep talk to the athletes shortly before they traveled to their first national tournament, a competition in which they placed second. This year’s schedule includes a national tournament in Tampa in August.
Hillsborough County Adaptive Sports is a signature program of Hillsborough County Parks & Recreation, with a mission to promote health, independence, and personal growth through sports for people with physical disabilities.