For a kid with a disability, the chance to learn to ride a horse or glide across a lake on water skis can mean a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Extreme Recess, a program of Chicago-based nonprofit Dreams for Kids, gives kids this opportunity. Founded by lawyer Tom Tuohy in 1989, Extreme Recess organizes adaptive sports events — like horseback riding, golfing or water skiing for kids with physical and developmental disabilities. While based around adaptive sports, Extreme Recess focuses on raising self-esteem and creating access to physical and social activities rather than the athletics themselves. As Tuohy explains, “The name says it all—it’s recess. [Kids with disabilities] don’t get recess.”
Extreme Recess was able to expand its reach last year thanks to State Farm’s Neighborhood Assist grant. Every year, State Farm gives out $25,000 to forty causes in forty communities around the country. The State Farm Youth Advisory Board selects 200 finalists from over 3,000 applicants, and communities vote on the winners.
As a State Farm Youth Advisory Board member, I can personally testify to the difficulty of rating grant applications all revealing incredible passion and dedication to a cause. Yet the success of Extreme Recess speaks to the importance of its work—and the
Twenty-five years ago, Tom Tuohy was being honored at an event for his success as a lawyer when his mother turned to him and told him that now was the time to pay it back. Growing up, Tuohy had been one of the “different kids” himself. Raised by a single mother after his father’s departure at age 8, he had faced similarly long odds—and now felt a responsibility to help other kids.
Inspired by his mother’s words, Tuohy started Dreams for Kids—adding Extreme Recess on about fifteen years ago when he met a young hockey player who had become paralyzed after a sports accident. “He was the one who educated us about sports for kids,” Tuohy said.
And from one paralyzed athlete who wanted to restore his access to the world of motion, Extreme Recess developed. Tuohy explains the impact of State Farm’s grant as allowing them to “bring more kids into the program.”
“You’re talking about kids who have been on the sidelines their whole lives,” he adds. Finally, Extreme Recess brings them into the spotlight. Ready to play.