Gold Rush Lauren Kintzing, 23
Paralympic Swimming/400-meter freestyle
up I was always active and involved in sports. It wasn't until I was 8
that I joined a summer league swim team through the Boulder Rec Centers,
which then led to me getting involved in a private club year-round swim
team. I also went to many athletic summer camps when I was younger held
by the Boulder Rec Centers which helped me experience multiple sports
and in the end confirm that swimming was my favorite out of all of them.
If it wasn't for the many options of club and rec swim teams available
to me, I'm sure I wouldn't be as committed or in love with the sport of
swimming as I am now. I was under the direction of some fantastic
coaches that helped me build my skills/technique and become the swimmer I
am today. I became such a water fanatic that not only did I spend a
lot of my time at the athletic club training, but I also worked there as a
lifeguard so I could spend more time outside around the water, watching
other kids fall in love with it.
I believe that public recreation
programs are important in getting kids interested in sports because it
allows kids of all ages to find an activity to fall in love with that
keeps them active. Also, it can carry throughout their lifetime as a
great way to stay healthy and in shape. I think public programs also
give an equal opportunity to everyone to experience what it’s like to be
a part of a team and as well as help build social relationships and
friendships with others their age who share their same passions and
Jazmin Almlie-Ryan, 30
Parks and Recreation's public/military adaptive recreation programs
within the Houston Metropolitan Multiservice Center have had a profound
impact in my involvement, interest, and success in every sport I play.
They have provided direct access to competitions, provided a daily
training location, and presented me with resources that have allowed me
to pursue my ambitions to represent the United States of America and
individuals with disabilities.
I actually found my passion for
shooting at a local event called Metal and Muscle.
It is a unique, amazing event we run each year at the George R. Brown
Convention Center where all of our Paralympic adaptive sports programs
are featured under one roof and made available for anybody to try. I was
there primarily to play wheelchair basketball. After the last game was
cancelled, I decided to try air rifles for the first time. That one
opportunity given to me opened the door. I won the small match, from
there was invited to a Paralympic training camp, and the rest is
history. Without this particular event and the opportunities it provides, I
would never have known of my potential in this sport.
I am currently
coaching and managing an adaptive air rifle program for Houston's
Metropolitan Multiservice Center run by Houston Parks and Recreation.
The target participation is for veterans with disabilities. I have
offered my services with hopes to develop and market the sport and
increase its participation in the Houston area. Its teachings and
practices aid in developing discipline, concentration, and control over
one's body (something vital for individuals with disabilities) and it
provides a sense of accomplishment for its participants. I also
volunteer for our local summer adaptive sports camps for children with
physical disabilities. I feel it is my responsibility to be a peer and
role model for our younger generation's disabled athletes and aid in
providing the same opportunities and access that I have been given.
feel that public/military programming is vital for the disabled
community. It provides opportunities for individuals of all athletic
levels, not just elite athletes. The mental, physical, emotional, and
social benefits that programming of this magnitude provides is
insurmountable. It can be life-saving/changing (especially for
individuals with disabilities). Being a part of its growth has been a
very personally rewarding experience for me, and I look forward to many
more years of involvement."
Elizabeth (Lisa) Patricia Gomez, 30
Boca Raton, Florida
2004 Past Olympian
Women's Soccer, Mexican National Team
entire childhood I was involved in recreational sports leagues,” says
Gomez, perhaps not surprisingly as the daughter of Mickey Gomez, CPRP,
recreation services director for the City of Boca Raton.
swimming when I was 5 years old. I also participated in local
recreational soccer, basketball and softball league, tennis camps, and
track,” Gomez continues. “I was exposed to several sports and I was
able to decide at 14 years old which one I wanted to focus on and
dedicate the majority of my time to--soccer.”
Gomez passed along
her skills as a youth girls’ competitive soccer coach from 2009-2012, and
she currently runs private sessions for girls who have the passion and
desire to develop their soccer skills and knowledge of the game.
SPC Justin Lester, 29
Justin Lester is a Greco-Roman Wrestler with the U.S. Army World Class
Athlete Program (WCAP), a program designed to provide soldier-athletes
with the support and training they need to compete successfully in
national and international competitions leading to Olympic and
Paralympic games while maintaining a professional military career. At
least nine WCAP athletes and coaches are participating in the London
Lester got his start in wrestling as a child in the North Akron City League. “I
started wrestling in the third grade,” Lester recalls. “My older
brother started wrestling to stay out of trouble, and he forced me to
participate in practices. After a couple of years of taking beatings, I
started winning and loving the sport.”
Lester, a five-time U.S.
national champion and five-time U.S. world team member, will make his
Olympic debut in London. He says he will accept nothing less than
getting his hand raised and hearing “The Star-Spangled Banner” played at
the end of the day. Adding to the pressure is his desire not just to
compete for his country, but for his fellow soldiers whose lives are at
stake every day.
“One goal and one goal only,” Lester says. “An Olympic medal. Not even an Olympic medal, I need gold.”
SPC Dennis Bowsher, 30
WCAP athlete, SPC Dennis Bowsher fell in love with swimming as a child
at a city swimming program in Dallas. While at a swimming competition in
2002 at age 19, he learned about a modern pentathlon training center in
San Antonio and decided to give it a try. Modern pentathlon consists of
five sports: fencing (epée), swimming (200-meter freestyle), equestrian
(show jumping), and running three 1,000-meter laps with target shooting
in between each lap. Not all of the sports were as familiar as
"I was afraid to get on the horse for that first time,"
Bowsher told the Dallas Star-Telegram. "It's funny, the first time I
shot a gun and rode a horse was when I started training. And I grew up
But within a year, Bowsher won the junior nationals, and he
was U.S. National Champion in 2011 and 2012. Bowsher is able to train
full time through the WCAP program.
“I’ve always seen myself as an
Olympian, but I never would have guessed it would be as a modern
pentathlete,” Bowsher says. “I am very thankful for every opportunity
and the support that has led me to accomplish this dream.”
Thank you NRPA and the athletes above for sharing these stories. We all know what parks and recreation does, but the public doesn't always. Please share these through your Facebook page too (maybe one a day), so we can help spread the good word.