Rehabilitation Services graduate Brandon Merry ’15 teaches the next generation how to increase access to recreational activities.
Story and photos by Marc Glass / December 2019
UMF students gained a new perspective on adaptive recreational equipment when Brandon Merry ’15, senior program manager at Maine Adaptive Sports & Recreation in Newry, rolled into the Fitness and Recreation Center with a dozen sport chairs and pickleball gear in early December.
Brandon Merry ’15, senior program manager at Maine Adaptive Sports & Recreation in Newry, instructs students on how to use sport chairs prior to playing a game of wheelchair pickleball in UMF’s Fitness and Recreation Center.
At the invitation of Assistant Professor of Rehabilitation Services Gina Oswald, Merry demonstrated how to maneuver the specially designed $1,400 wheelchairs so students in her Introduction to Disability Studies class could learn how to help people with disabilities access and participate in recreational sports.
“To be able to give back skills and knowledge to the next generation of people who aim to work with people with disabilities is especially rewarding,” said Merry, who interned with Maine Adaptive while he majored in Rehabilitation Services at UMF and has made two campus presentations a year since he graduated in 2015.
First-year students Emily Thompson of Easton, Maine, (above) and Kelsey Sullivan of Cumberland, Maine, (below) experience the coordination and balance necessary to play pickleball while using a wheelchair. Their course instructor, Assistant Professor of Rehabilitation Services Gina Oswald, and Merry say one of the goals for the activity is to gain an understanding of how to help people with disabilities access and participate in recreational sports.
“Part of my goal is to help students become aware of the ever-expanding array of adaptive equipment that’s available,” Merry said. “The whole idea is to ensure there are as few barriers as possible for people with disabilities to recreate. There should be no reason for someone not to access and try a sport.”
For Oswald, Merry’s presence as a practitioner in the field also helps students expand their knowledge of career outcomes associated with the degree program.
Gina Oswald, Assistant Professor of Rehabilitation Services, watches her students navigate their first game of pickleball while using specially designed wheelchairs.
“If students choose to work with a disability population, it’s important that they understand adaptive recreation is a possibility,” Oswald said. “Their clients may need specialized equipment. This class experience exposes them to understanding what a person’s adaptive needs might be and seeing how to meet those needs or refer them to an agency that can provide the necessary support.”
“It’s wonderful that Brandon is willing to visit and share his expertise and experience with the class,” she said.