SportAbility of Iowa was founded in 2010 to fill a void. Since 1968, people with intellectual disabilities have enjoyed participating in sport and recreation through Special Olympics programs. However, opportunities for people with physical disabilities and visual impairments were limited or did not exist – until recently. The United States Olympic Committee and US Paralympics are working with organizations across the country to establish Paralympic Sport Clubs to create access to programs, equipment, and instruction so people with physical disabilities and visual impairments can participate in sport and recreation. SportAbility of Iowa is honored to be the first club in Iowa to attain this status!
Beth Ward, Co-Founder
Beth Ward is a proud graduate of the University of Oklahoma, where she completed her Master’s in Human Relations (MHR) focusing on diversity, organizational development (OD), and counseling. As a non-traditional student working her way through college, she was a professional interpreter for the Deaf in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and taught sign language for many years. Her certifications include Performance Consulting, Curriculum Development, Needs Analysis, and Training and Development. Beth worked in private, corporate, and non-profit organizations in management, training and development, children’s counseling, grant writing, and consulting before co-founding SportAbility of Iowa with Sherri Hildebrand. Beth enjoys hands-on work and thrives while helping people flourish and succeed. Her contributions to SportAbility include attaining 501 (c) 3 status, budget, business planning, marketing, advertising materials, brochures, press releases, grant writing, and building community and corporate relations. At SportAbility of Iowa, Beth wore many hats; archery instructor, chauffeur, chief camp cook, and official marshmallow-roaster. Beth now enjoys early retirement, building stained glass windows, sewing, taking care of six cats, two dogs, and sleeping late while living in Mackinaw, Illinois.
Sherri Hildebrand, Co-Founder
Sherri Hildebrand, a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist with an M.Ed. in Exercise Science and an M.S. in Recreation, Park, and Tourism Administration, has over 23 years of experience teaching Health, Physical Education, and Therapeutic Recreation in higher education. She is also a proud member of the American Therapeutic Recreation Association and the Illinois Recreation Therapy Association. Her experiences as a Program Assistant in a YMCA youth and aquatic program spurred her love of adaptive sports. Sherri’s dream of an organization offering sports for people with physical disabilities became a reality with SportAbility of Iowa’s birth. Sherri, as Program Director, created adaptive programming that addressed the community needs while engaging many community partnerships to make SportAbility of Iowa successful. She spent long hours ensuring that sport and recreation programming was enjoyable, safe, and able to be accessed by people with a variety of physical disabilities. Currently, Sherri is an Instructional Assistant Professor in Therapeutic Recreation at Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois. When not in her classroom or office, Sherri can be found diligently working her copious New York Times crossword puzzles, listening to classical music, and petting her Airedale Terrier, Fritz.